So, what are you reading now? (Part the second)

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Thanks, Meem - now I wish I could start it now. Bah Humbug, don't wanna go to a Christmas dinner, wanna read my book!

(But I know I'll love it once I'm there!)

(Just a little side-note, I spent my teenage years in Walled Lake and used to go to Plymouth every Thursday night to go dancing. My old stomping grounds!)

Lake Toxaway, NC(Zone 7a)

How did everyone like Cidar House Rules?

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

As I remember, I loved it.

Lake Toxaway, NC(Zone 7a)

well, that's on my list. I also hae Blame, The Road, Ship Fever and other stories, The Great Fire and the Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao. I plant to intersperse those with more Dickens. and more Philip Roth.

Plano, TX

i liked the road but disturbing!

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

I look forward to hearing about The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao - I started to pick it up a few times, but the jacket never got me to buy it.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Cider House RUlles--is that the one with the place that takes in pregnant girls? I liked it, and Garp, and Owen Meany, but not Hotel NEw Hampshire.
I just checked out After This from the library, alice McDermott, after reading a recommendation, and its a Nat'l Book Award book. I think.
I just got a Fannie Flagg book for my mom and she liked it, (it's not Fried Green Tomatos)

Plano, TX

fannie flagg is fun

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Just finished Vanina Marsot's Foreign Tongue, about a woman with dual citizenship who leaves LA and moves to Paris to get over (as usual) a fractured love affair. She takes a job as a translator, and what's interesting is her discussions on the differences between French and English, faux amis (words that sound the same in both languages but have significantly different meanings which trap the unwary), and general French culture/psychology as it shapes language.

I really enjoyed the romp through words and the plot is interesting, but be forewarned that the book the protoganist is translating is erotic, so some of her musings deal with French terms for very intimate body parts and acts. The end was a bit of a surprise. Overall, a book to recommend.

Lake Toxaway, NC(Zone 7a)

I didn't like Sabbath's Theater and I only read about 1/5 of it. So far, the whole book was about a man in his 60s and his wild sex life. It was very graphic and repetitious. I am not a prude, far from it, but this was beyond the pale. I thumbed through more of it, towards the last 1/3 of the book, and it was still this guy and his obsession.
Very dissappointed in Roth.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

The Help was good, much better than Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet.

Plano, TX

darn! wish we had picked the help for bookclub!
i've always felt roth was a good/very good writer but that he was a very male writer and i also feel that he is a little chavenistic (i have spell check but only shows me what i am spelling is wrong not how to spell it!!)

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

"Chauvinistic", my dear Linda.

Males going on ad nauseum about their sex life can get old pretty quickly, I would suspect....

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

woodspirit--sounds like a book just for guys. eww.

Just ordered Foreign Tongue and Blame it on Paris for my sister--thanks for the suggestions!!!!!

Also got Governess by Ruth Brandon. Its not fiction, rather examines reocrds and memoirs of real governesses of the Victorina era, give background on the whole big governes trend, I have only gotten thru the intro chapter of background. It could be fun but is kind of academic in style, nut fun like Mary Roach (Stiff, Spook) Kind of interesting. Governesses were middle class women without a husband, it was almost the only way she could support herself in middle class society as no women got high education, but they governes was a very lonely lifestyle and not well paid.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Interesting how gender plays a major role in our reading. Roth is probably a great writer -- I haven't read anything of his so this is only hearsay -- but it is true that even among very high quality writers, there is a major divide between men and women. I haven't read Governess but I think I would like to. But I can think of male writers, whose writing is considered excellent by critics, whom I cannot tolerate because of their sexist attitude -- one that comes to mind is John Fowles. I read several of his books and then got so angry at him that I donated the lot -- which I owned in hardback -- to the library. Perhaps Roth is the same.
Yet I love Margaret Drabble and find Margaret Atwood good, though I don't always love everything she writes. I love Amy Tan, too. It is amazing to me how different men's fiction and women's fiction actually are, even today. Men still want to endlessly recount ( or rather fantasize upon) their sexual escapades and women write about the female experience. I so much prefer the latter.
Oddly enough, I didn't find this a problem in writers of 100 years or more ago -- Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy -- male writers who all wrote eloquently of womens' problems. What is going on in the 20th and 21st centuries?
Perhaps it is only the test of time. I do find that A Thousand Splendid Sons is very good on women's issues and the writer is male. Perhaps the reason all those writers of the 19th century seem so great is that the chaff have been swept away. I am hoping that the chaff of the 20th and 21st century will soon be swept away.
Good writing is about the truth, not about someone's fantasy, male or female -- unless it claims to be fantasy.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Pajarito, but while Dickens and Bovary and others of their ilk may have written eloquently of women's problems, it was always from a superior position and their attitudes tended to take the prevailing views of women for granted. I'm thinking of Dora in David Copperfield, I think it was, and how limited she was, and even though the other girl in David's life (it's been years) was a very different sort of creature, she was still locked in to the limitations that that era placed upon women. Dickens played it for dramatic value but I don't know that he felt it was wrong.

Sallyg, let me know how your sister likes those books. I take it she likes to read about France?

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Gosh, it was so long ago that I read David Copperfield that I can't say much about his view of women, but I wouldn't be surprised if he bought into the idea that women like Dora were wonderful. I think Flaubert and Tolstoy both showed the misery women who step out of their assigned social role would lead disastrous lives. They seemed to get the injustice of their situations. They certainly aren't like modern male writers who go on and on about their sexual conquests.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I think modern males can write those kind of things because publishers are willing to publish what a change since DH Lawrence eh? and men buy--there is plenty of money in it. Not earth shaking news I realize. I am lucky to have found such an intelligent group to chat with!
Read a bit more in Governess last night. Wow, the limitations of adult women then-- So few choices! women totally dependant on men, men liking it that way. Most girls denied real education, only occupied with sewing, etc, things to make them respectable little middle class wifeys. Men with money staying unmarried till age 30 (surpsied me) because of gentlemens clubs where they got lots of bene's of women for hire without the tie down of marriage.
Daniel DaFoes Moll Flanders was similar in showing how one woman's life spiraled down, not much she could do of her own power--well I saw it done on PBS, not an expert on the story.

greenhousegal--my sister is going to Paris in the spring!! how exciting! We both took French all thru HS and a bit of college. and lets not get into archaic education system, we all have French offered because we were so tied to France two hundred years ago politically!!

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Your lucky sister! Tell her to see the movie ( yes this is a bit off topic) Paris Je T'Aime.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0401711/

It is made up of 18 -- 5 minute short films each by a different director and set of stars, many very famous. Each short is about a certain neighborhood in Paris. We loved it.

Okay, back to books. Umm -- I am almost done with Nine Lives. Governess sounds interesting. It wasn't that long ago that women had few choices. I once read a book named Millionairess, each chapter on a woman who had become a millionaire on her own. It was probably written about 30 years ago and isn't the world's greatest book or anything, but it was interested how many of these women had to pretend it was their husband's business to stop nosey people from suspecting their business wasn't worth while. Women who didn't marry were often doomed to lives of poverty because of no decent jobs. Heck, I can remember those days.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Thanks for Paris Je T'Aime- a must get!

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

I remember my mother - as a specialized nurse (Labor and Delivery) with a 3 yr degree and years of experience - being shocked when my brother got an entry-level factory job making the same salary. Probably 30 years ago.

I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who feels there's a gender gap in writing. I was more afraid that chauvinism was on my part.

Lake Toxaway, NC(Zone 7a)

If I could detect a point in Sabbath, I might have soldiered on for awhile. Roth women were certainly enlightened in this book, to the point of being nymphos, a male's dream.
As for Dickens, we will have to realize the times, when families were large and woman's place was at home. No time for anything else.
It makes one wonder how Queen Elizabeth I was taken seriously. She was a great leader. True, she didn't have a family, but I wouldn't have thought that would automatically make her considered as intelligent and agressive.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

No, it isn't on your part, pagancat. Not all male writers today are chauvinistic, but plenty are. I remember reading Mystic River, and though the book was not mostly about women, it seemed not to be about male sexual prowess. It was a thriller and it was more about the life in the Irish neighborhoods of Boston. Some women were good and some women are totally unpleasant and no one is perfect and it isn't about sex. The sexual part is understated.
My DH usually tells me if he reads a book if he thinks I will like it. That way I don't have to read the trashy ones -- only the good ones. And he rarely reads books by women though he is a great fan of Mary Renault -- and so am I for that matter. She has a wonderful book called The King Must Die which covers the period in ancient history in Greece when the mother culture was overthrown by the paternalistic culture. I consider it a must read for understanding of the nature of gender in culture. There is plenty of sex but it is more about power and gender and says it all, IMHO. Probably most of you have read it, but if you haven't go get it from the library. Actually DH and I have both enjoyed many of her books. She passed away many years ago, but her books are timeless. We believe from reading between the lines in biographical material that she might have been a lesbian. That isn't evident in her novels though.
I remember finishing college in 1967 and getting a job as a high school teacher. I supported my then DH for a year while he finished his degree. He then took a job working for the local newspaper. Newpaper work is notorious for paying badly but he still made more money than I did with a year of experience.
I got very involved in following men vs. womens' salaries at the National Lab where I worked for years. In those days it was a public institution and as such all salaries were available upon request. I learned that men with no degrees genereally made more money than women, even those who had Phds in the field in which they were working. Over my 22 years working there, women won 2 gender discrimination law suits based on that material. None of those lawsuits came close to reimbursing us for the years of back pay we lost or the lack of promotion. I am now retired, but I understand such discrimination continues to this day but is nearly impossible to prove because the institution was outsourced to a large corporation and salaries in large corporations do not have to be revealed.
Believe me, things have improved, but we aren't there yet.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Tee hee. Good point woodspirit. I do think she had problems getting men to take her seriously, but somehow the British put great faith in the power of the throne and stood behind whoever was titular head -- at least to some degree. Of course, they were always scheming to get their own patron put on the throne through war or murder or whatever, so Elizabeth was clearly brilliant or she would not have lived such a long and healthy life.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Or really, really lucky.... I always wonder when we look back and call someone very smart, how much of it was truly "Heck, I dunno - let's try this!" The only book I ever read about Elizabeth portrayed her as pretty nervous about everything; as a woman in that position and time, I'd say that contributed to her success greatly! Of course, I have no idea how accurate that is. But it didn't seem like a position where you could relax for a moment.

Thanks for that suggestion, Pajarito - I will look it up Renault ASAP. I'm down to only one book in my stack, gotta get more for the winter hibernation.... are you still as happy with Nine Lives?

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

SallyG, one of the best books for understanding the differences in culture between England/US and the French is Almost French, by Sarah Turnbull. It's one of my favorites. How long is your sister going for? We've been twice for a bit over two weeks each time, but we mostly stay in the southwest where we have friends, and just go to Paris for a few days at the end. We love the countryside. I took French in high school and started off majoring in it in college, and then realized that I didn't want to do any of the things it would prepare me for so I switched to psych. I'm retired now and paint part-time. I did a series of eight oils of France, which was a lot of fun.

I recently read Obama's Dreams from My Father, which portrayed his relationship with his mother much differently than I had inferred from everything else I'd seen. I hadn't realized that she'd been as much a part of his life as she apparently was. It was really interesting to get a glimpse of what he was like before he became so political - when he was simply working as a community organizer in Chicago. I also recently read Louise Penny's Still Life, the debut novel in a mystery series set in Canada north of Montreal. Nice characters and a good plot; also fun because it was a different environment.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I imagine Elizabeth was pretty nervous all the time -- sort of a control freak -- and that probably served her well. Brilliant or lucky? Hard to tell, but I don't think being female helped her. Just her being the clear heir to the throne and some carefully managed political alliances. I think she probably was tenacious and tough, too.
I am just a few pages from the end of Nine Lives and it is so good that I can't bear to finish it. I am reading slowly. It turns out I knew a couple of the families mentioned, even one specific family member who was mentioned -- slightly.
The thing that I find so amazing about this book is how deeply he understands New Orleans and its people. I didn't find a single fact that seemed incorrect to me -- not common in books on New Orleans. Have I already mentioned that people in New Orleans never used the nickname "The Big Easy" before the movie came out and most still don't. I wonder where they got that name? Made it up I guess. New Orleans calls itself two things, "The City that Care Forgot." and "The Crescent City".

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

"The City that Care Forgot." Wow, that's so sad. Has it always been a term they used or is it only post-Katrina?

Greenhouse_gal - funny, my mom is currently reading Dreams from my Father.... she says he had quite an interesting childhood.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

"The City that Care Forgot" was a name for New Orleans going way back, certainly through my childhood. I think it refers somewhat to mardi gras in the sense of carefree. It wasn't meant as a sad thing. Also, New Orleans has always been a big party town -- Storyville, birth of jazz, etc. etc. In the Nine Lives you hear a lot about how unhurried people are in that culture. So carefree, is the idea.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Oh, funny - I completely misconstrued the term!

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Actually, your mistake says a lot, doesn't it. That phrase now has a new meaning, but in New Orleans they still think of themselves as a great party town. They had Mardi Gras, much less elaborate, but they had it the spring after Katrina. In Nine Lives you will read a lot about Mardi Gras and its importance in both the black and the white communities. Stuff even I didn't know before.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Okay, I downloaded Nine Lives - did I mention that New Orleans is my favorite city in the U.S.? It's nice to know that it is an authentic rendering of the story - as an outsider, I would only be guessing.

Unfortunately Ms. Renault's books aren't available in electronic format - probably good, it means I'll have to go to the library instead of buying it.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Glad you got 9 lives. It celebrates the real quirky nature of the New Orleans. If you love New Orleans you will love this book.

Mary Renault is worth a trip to the library. She wrote a lot of books. The King Must Die is just the beginning of a whole lot of books dealing with ancient Mediterranean culture.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

9 lives will be a must read here--when I can.
I saw quite a few Mary Renault paperbacks at the used book store--would that be the same one?standard size ones.
My library has been thinning out books that have not been checked out in a year. Used / overstock book reselling should be here to stay, and how great that forums like this let more people find out about the good ones?

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I am pretty sure there is only on Mary Renault who is a novelist. Some of hers are The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea. They deal with ancient civilizations in Greece and Crete and explain some of the legends -- like the one about the Minotaur on Crete and the Oracle at Delphi and what they were like in real life -- obviously her these are her own inventions, but based on solid anthropological fact. It is her historical novels that we so admire:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Renault


BTW, This article shows the kind of think that happened after Hurricane Katrina. Most of the housing lost in Katrina was low income housing, both privately owned and public housing. This article takes up where Nine Lives leaves off.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/04/us/04housing.html?fta=y

But Nine Lives is personal stories -- actual people telling what the life was like for them before, during and after Katrina. People from all walks of life from the highest to the lowliest and including one high flying MD who decided to be the county coroner and turned began playing trumpet in a jazz band and a black church.

Lake Toxaway, NC(Zone 7a)

I'm catching up on my New Yorkers again. They have a list of their favorite picks for 2009. Would you all like me to post it here?

Plano, TX

sure!

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Absolutely!

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Which issue,Woodspirit? I have them all in a stack by my easy chair!

Lake Toxaway, NC(Zone 7a)

It's the Dec. 14 issue, page 85, "A Year's Reading," reviewers' favorites from 2009.
NONFICTION:
Lords of Finance: by Liaquat Ahamed. Central bankers and he disaster of the gold standard.
Somewhere Towards The End: by Diana Athil.l Relections on life as a nonagenarian.
Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters: by Louis Begley. A compact treatment of a complex case.
Germany 1945, by Richard Bessel. A powerful picture of a nation in defeat.
Hiding Man, By Tracy Daughherty. The life and work of Donald Barthelme.
Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers. Caught between Hurricane Katrina and the war on terror.
My Paper Chase, byHarold Evans. Memories of the newspaper trade.
Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. A playful yet serious vegetarian manifesto.
Flannery, by Brad Gooch. The quiet life behind Flannery O'Connor's fantastic fiction.
Dorothea Lange, by Linda Gordon. From Society photographer to photographer of society.
Fordlandia, by Greg Grandin. Henry Ford's Amazonian folly.
Go Down Together, by Jeff Guinn. Behind the myth of Bonnie and Clyde.
Beg, Borrow Steal, by Michael Greenberg. Notes on a freelancing life.
A Strange Eventful History, by Michael Holroyd. The linked lives of two nineteenth-century stage stars.
Marx's General, by Tristam Hunt. Friedrich Engels, the industrialist who bankrolled "Das Kapital."
Lit, by Mary Karr. The author of "The Liars' Club" finds God.
The Magician's Book, by Laura Miller. Reading C.S. Lewis as a child and as an adult.
Trotsky, by Robert Service. Stalin's rival is not to be romanticized.
A Paradise Built in Hell, by Rebecca Solnit. Natural disasters and the power of community.
The First Tycoon, by T. J. Stiles. Cornelius Vanderbilt's grand gambles.
The Death of Conservatism, by Sam Tannenhaus. A movement's maladies.
The Yankee Years, by Joe Torre and Tom Verducci. A view from the bench.
The Parents We Meant To Be, by Richard Weissbourd. Why we should beware of overpraising our children.
The Evolution of God, by Robert Wright. The development of religion from the Stone Age to now.
FICTION AND POETRY TO FOLLOW.

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.
BACK TO TOP