Sunday, July 21, 2013

Two Things on Four Books

It's been a pretty big month; Serena got the Internet and I got air conditioning, so I'd say together, we're basically living all the way in the 21st century for the first time in a while. High-fives all around.

I don't have anything super in-depth to say about any one thing I've read lately, but here's a drive-by of the last four books I've read (one of which I'm only halfway through) and two things that I've liked about them:

A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan, and The Liars' Club, by Mary Karr

First, Mary Karr is fantastic. I'll probably write more on that later, but for now, just trust me. She really is. You should go read "Disgraceland" if you need to be sure. Anyway, she had a pretty unfortunate childhood (her mom tried to shoot her dad, stuff like that) and wrote a memoir about it. Karr's book essentially posits that really horrible things can happen to you and you can overcome them and eventually have a normal, healthy life. Egan's book (which is a novel) touches on the same issue. Pretty simple. I find it heartening. Is this lame? Is it lame that sometimes I just want to read about how you can move on from really awful things that happen to you? Anyway, if you want the case to be made for the possibility of normalcy, you should read these two books back-to-back.

Last, Dakota by Kathleen Norris and My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman (which I'm only halfway through) both lean heavily on others' writings. Norris has an epigraph at the beginning of each of her chapters and constantly cites the Desert Fathers. And Wiman's book almost feels more like a scrapbook or an anthology than an essay collection. The great thing about that is that you get quick little exposures to people like Randall Jarrell, Patrick Kavanagh, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Robert Bringhurst, and lots of others. His book almost feels more like a synthesis of others' thought than anything else; it's really honest and see-through. It feels very rich, and I like it.

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