Monday, August 31, 2015

summer book reviews

just to show you how many I could have read

Since the first of June, I have read one book.


And it took me nearly a month to read that one. What with the grandkid visits and my trip to Canada and then some work to attend to when I got back I just haven't had the time, energy, or inclination to read, especially with a new puppy demanding constant attention. I even returned Kate Atkinson's new book, which I had had for a good month, after only reading about 1/5th of it. I finally went to the library about 10 days ago hoping to find a good short read so that I would have at least two books this quarter.

So what did I come back with? An 839 page tome that weighs a fucking ton. I picked up The Familiar, vol. 1 by Mark Z. Danielewski. When I checked it out, the librarian told me 'good luck, I don't think anyone has finished it yet'. It is not a normal book so I did a search on it and found the NY Times book review of it. Sheesh. I couldn't even get through the review! And apparently this is the first volume of 27. I have lost my fucking mind.

OK, so here is the book I did read:

The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas - I finally finished The Kashmir Shawl. It took me the better part of a month I think. Not because it wasn't a good story. It is a good story and I would have enjoyed it more if I had had the time or inclination to sit down and read. Mair finds an exquisite hand woven pashmina shawl when she and her siblings go to close out the house after their father died. The shawl was handed down by Mair's grandmother and it, with a lock of hair and a photograph, sets Mair off on a quest to learn about the shawl and hopefully in the process, about her grandmother, married to her missionary husband, from Wales in Kashmir during WW2. The story is told two ways or two stories...from Mair's perspective in the present and from her grandmother, Nerys' perspective in the past. As Mair travels through Kashmir learning about where and how the shawl was made, Nerys' story unfolds there in the same places, the story of the women in the picture in the India of the British Raj during the years of WW2, the story of the shawl and the lock of hair, the story that Mair finally pieces together and her own journey.

Now that I have my one little review done, I thought I'd give you a peek at The Familiar. It is one main story line interspersed with short segments of other story lines and so far, all but one of these alternate story line segments have been different...sort of like channel surfing on TV while the commercials come on during the show you are actually watching. Spacing changes, type faces change, pages are inserted that have you going 'what the fuck?', I swear this guy makes up languages and slang as he goes along. I don't try to understand what I am reading, hoping instead to just glean understanding as I go along. Here are a few examples:

even has its own bookmark!

It's not actually as fearsome as it seems. I'm already on page 231, reading only about half an hour to an hour in the evenings. I don't know why I haven't taken it back. Maybe I just want to be able to say I was the first person in Wharton that actually read the whole thing. And maybe by the time I get to the end I'll even understand what it was about.


  1. You know, there's a fine line between breaking new artistic ground and generating self-consciously-creative rubbish. I haven't read Danielewski at all so I can't make a call, but based on what you've said so far I'm leaning toward the latter.

    I guess it doesn't have to make linear sense, exactly, as long as it speaks to you somehow. I'll be interested to hear whether or not that's the case.

  2. Oh good Lord. These days I can barely follow the theme of a "traditional" book. I find myself reading at night and thinking, "What the hell is this about? Who is this person? Where are we?"
    And then I have to go back and reread.
    I'd get the Atkinson book back if I were you.

  3. I'm with Ms. Moon. The current book I'm reading (Moo, by Jane Smiley) has me going back to reread the passages where we "meet" the characters just so I can remember who's who. Love the "search" feature on my kindle for just that purpose :)

  4. I'm almost done with Marty's book . . . Earthly Needs. It's good!

  5. I read a book over the summer--1000 white women--that astounded my forbearance. I picked it up because a friend's sister-in-law recommended it to her. Said sil is the CEO of a corporation whose product is in most middle class and up American kitchens. I read a few pages into it and discarded it. My friend inquired why I set it aside as her sil gave it to her, with raves about this account of brave women and heroic sacrifice. I doggedly set to it, and pronounced it total trash, some man's fantasy, in spite of the fact it might be partially true. Back home I googled and gagged. Not only some man's fantasy; he has volumes two and three in the works. The dumbing of American has reached the boardrooms.

  6. The last book I tried to read was Inferno, by Michael Brown. I got within 80 pages of the end and stopped reading because I just didn't care. Tired old plot.

  7. I don't even read the newspaper much. I am too busy to do much more than having lots of fun.

  8. I am not sure, that book looks daunting and unreadable. WHY? My eyey are not working well enough to read so I am picky to find really worthy reading material -to make the effort worthwhile! Thanks for the reviews, always. I feel smarter just knowing that you are reading for me!

  9. I finished a book by one of my favorite authors, Sue Miller - The Arsonist. I like her writing style and storylines don't straight from point A to point B. The book was mysterious enough that I made sure everything was locked up at night when I was home alone reading. Now I'm reading Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen. I like her style, too, and this character is in transition, something I can relate to. I'd be interested to know what you think of your book with all the art-with-words.


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.