Monday, January 05, 2009

World's Shortest Book Reviews.

I'm sure they're not, actually. They're not quite "Tonstant Weeder frowed up." Nonetheless, I have entered an online group that wants to read 52 books in 52 weeks, and I am about to finish my 3rd book of 2009.

1. Feathers Brush My Heart, Sinclair Browning, a collection of anecdotes by women who feel that they were contacted by the spirits of their dead mothers. I got this as a Christmas gift.
This book apparently means the world to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of women around the world. It was not my cup of tea at all, but I wanted to finish it so that I could converse intelligently with the giver.

2. Tamera Drewe, Posy Simmons, either a heavily illustrated novel or a comic with a whole lot of text. Borrowed from the library. Excellently realized, but, since it's a story about chasing small-time celebrity and sordid behavior, it's kind of, um, sordid. None of the characters were admirable, and none were likable rogues, either.

3. The Sand Castle, Rita Mae Brown. Novella about the events of one family's day trip to the beach in Maryland in 1957. Beautifully done - constantly threatening to fall over the cliff into schmaltz, but somehow never does. Excellent economy, wonderfully evocative. Very good. (I am shocked to see that so many readers on Amazon hated it.)

4. The Man Who Ate the World, Jay Rayner. Food memoir (a minisubgenre I LOVE.). Rayner is a London restuarant critic, and he's witty and self-aware and uses funny Brit-isms to great effect. This is sort of a travel book, as he sets out to eat the perfect restaurant meal, wherever he can find it. He does a good job explaining food trends and giving a sense of place (though the place is, as often as not, pretty depressing.) I'm enjoying this book, but it has never grabbed me the way the Reichl and Buford books that I read this summer did. Which is to say, when I'm reading it, I laugh out loud and occasionally quote a finely-turned phrase to Eric....but when I've put it down, I'm not COMPELLED to get back to it.

Incidentally, last year I read another food memoir/travel book I can recommend unreservedly: Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China by Fuchsia Dunlop.

On deck at the moment: I have to read the last few dozen pages of The Man Who, then I have 2 volumes of essays - I Wanna Be Sedated, about parenting teenagers, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. I have read enough of each to say:
a) Sedaris is funny again, yay, as funny as Barrel Fever.
s) apparently there is nothing funny about parenting teenagers. AT ALL.

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