Ilivetolearn's Blog

January 31, 2011

love, war, and rock and roll

Filed under: books/authors — ilivetolearn @ 8:59 pm

Since the New Year, I’ve been reading (as usual) one book in print at home, and one on CD in the car. In an unfortunate concatenation of events, my home book was about war in Israel:

and my car book about the Civil War and its aftermath:

Each of these was depressing in a different way–the David Grossman book incredibly well written but almost unbearably tense and sad, especially for someone like me, with sons 22 and 25. The main character is on an odyssey of sorts with an old friend, trying to avoid being home so that the military notifiers can’t knock on her door to tell her her son has been killed. I found myself dreading reading it while simultaneously being drawn to the characters, wondering throughout whether the son lives or dies, and admiring the author’s gifts. When I finished and found out that he had had a son killed before the book was published I was even more impressed and saddened.

The Steven Wright book was not as great a literary accomplishment, but still a good read. My standard for post-Civil War narratives is Cold Mountain, and it didn’t quite live up to that; the characters are a motley collection of dogmatic, venal, arrogant, and downright cruel Southerners and a few none-too-savory Northerners for good measure, and the plot is a little too heavy on violent incidents (only a few actually part of the war) for me. But I greatly enjoyed the description of a westward ride on the Erie Canal, and I did admire some of the less purple prose.

After all that killing and maiming and bereavement, I was “ready for a love story,” as one member of my book club said. We are reading this:

and it is indeed a love story: Julia loves her husband Paul, loves Paris (and then Marseilles, and then France in general), loves cooking, loves writing…loves life! What a woman. Instead of the cringe- and tear-inducing effects of the previous two titles, this one is literally making my mouth water as I read.

And for another break from human misery, the book club just finished this:

Actually, I think I was the only one who read the whole thing–my first outing on an e-reader (Phoebe’s new Nook). Much as I was annoyed by Keith’s sense of entitlement and “We can get away with anything” and heedless destruction of property, etc, the book was a wild ride through the 60’s and 70’s and I loved it. I even played some old Stones tunes while reading, and copied down the recipe for Bangers and Mash.

Now if only I can get the formula right–a book on CD that makes me cry in the car, and one on the page (or screen) that makes me laugh and/or salivate at home. Alternatively, a happy funny driving story, and a solemn thought-provoking pre-bedtime read. If I am taking in two escapist titles at the same time, I feel too dissolute.


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