Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Dark and Light

I'm getting near the end of my Have Read, Must Blog list (hooray!), but it is becoming a stretch to find a theme between the remaining books. The best I can do for six of them is to highlight their contrast.

First, from the shadows.

The unquestionably dark: The Road by Cormack McCarthy, full of post-apocalyptic dirt and horror. It's the story of a father and son's grueling journey in search of safety in a world where they're not even sure it exists anymore. It's horrible and hopeless and sad, but also compelling and strong.

The dark and beautiful: Truth & Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett. I was first introduced to Patchett's excellent writing in her novel Run. T&B is non-fiction about her relationship with an amazing, larger-than-life, self-destructive friend. I bought it because I loved the cover and because I love Patchett's writing, even though the concept of the book was not overly appealing to me. Luckily for me it turned out to be quite engaging. And, as I expected, very well written.

The darkly humorous: Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. I really enjoyed reading this book, even if the protagonist--part small-time thug, part detective . . . with Tourette's--seemed so odd that I'm not sure I was ever really able to identify with him. He was certainly unique, anyway. And I'm excited about this!

And now, in the sunshine:

The Cat-Nappers by P G Wodehouse, which is nothing if not silly and tongue-in-cheek. Though if you've read any Jeeves and Wooster books, this is exactly what you might expect (along with a few high-jinks, many complications, and a misunderstanding or two). This is the sort of book to read in one rainy afternoon of house-sitting.

The Darling Buds of May by H E Bates. This book has a bright and cheerful tone with an undercurrent of earthiness. It tells the story of the carefree, easy-going Larkin family, eternal optimists and general free spirits, and the way they convert an uptight, timid tax clerk to their way of life. I'd never heard of this book (nor the early-90s TV series it sparked, which starred Catherine Zeta-Jones!) until Sam told me about it: he loves the family he grew up in, but if he were forced to choose a different one, he would have chosen the Larkins.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. This was a broad overview of science through the ages--kind of gossipy, and more about the scientists and their rivalries than about the science itself-- but I was really disappointed in my inability to retain information from this book. I mean, just after I'd finished reading the physics section I was asked to provide the answer to a crossword clue about the scientist who first proposed the currently understood atomic model, and I drew a complete blank. I want to remember EVERYTHING! But alas, that is not what fortune has in store for The Literary Amnesiac. 

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