Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Elif Shafak was arrested and charged for crimes against Turkey for writing her novel The Bastard of Istanbul. Apparently, the government felt that Shafak's story of two young women, one Turkish and one Armenian-American, was anti-Turkish in nature and defamatory to the Turkish culture. Huh. Yes, all the characters in this novel were inherently flawed, but so are all those who claim humanity. Except Donald Trump, of course. He claims to have no flaws whatsoever. Again, huh. In any case, I found this novel to be interesting. The characters wove together as beautifully and as complex as the design in a Turkish rug. Are there such things? Maybe I'm thinking of a different rug. Nevertheless, a look into a culture so obviously not interested in being looked into.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Admittedly, I'm not much a fan of the mystery novel. I'm not averse to them, I'm simply not drawn to them either. Thus, it was a mystery to me when I picked up The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard. A mystery that revolves around the dynamics of a small town and the relationships therein and what happens to all of those when a naked teen-aged girl is found frozen to death in the snow. No one claims to know who this girl is and she is buried in the town cemetery with a simple headstone that reads "Peace Be Unto You". Not long thereafter, people start attributing small miracles to this young girl whom they have started referring to as "the Virgin". Her grave becomes a pilgrimage of sorts and the circumstances surrounding her death seem to fade as far away as her true identity. It is a good book, but not one that I would walk around the library trying to push upon people. If you like this sort of thing, give it a shot.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A long time ago I read the book The Red Tent by Anita Diamante and loved it. Just recently I read another of her books The Last Days of Dogtown (blog posting 2/21/07) and liked that one too. So, because I was having a hard time thinking of anything to look for at the library (hint, hint, I need suggestions!) I decided to head to the "D" section and find anything else by Ms. Diamante. I picked up her book Good Harbor. It's the story of two Jewish women who live in the seaside town of Gloucester, one full time and one for holidays. The women become friends and walk through life together, high and low points. The characters are sometimes lovely women, and mostly believable. The dialogue is real and nothing is too saccharine. Still, it is less rich than the other two novels, but a sweet read nonetheless. Perhaps a book to take on vacation with you? I can imagine reading this in a cabin or a beach house. Definitely by water and with a tasty beverage.

Also found while wandering through the San Jose Public Library, a series of books from Canongate Publishers (as if that means anything to anyone, except of course to the lovely folks at Canongate . . . sorry if I offended!) that are retelling of world myths by modern storytellers. One word for you friends . . . CAPTIVATING. The first two I have read are Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith (The #1 Ladies Detective Agency Series) and The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale). Both are amazing tales. The first is from a Celtic myth of Angus, the son of a god and a naiad, who brings dreams to mortal creatures. Wow. Smith has an amazing gift of weaving language in a way that is dreamlike and wonderful and makes you long to be sitting in front of a fireplace listening to him tell the tale of the boy who brings dreams. The second is a much darker story in which we get an account of what Penelope was doing in all the time Odysseus was away rescuing Helen from Paris of Troy, from Penelope's point of view. Atwood has a much heavier hand than Smith does, when retelling a story, but no less effective. The Penelopiad is presented as a Greek tragedy, complete with a chorus made up of Penelope's twelve maids who were hanged by Odysseus upon his return. Wonderful. I had a tough time putting either of these down.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The last two books from Dianne:
    1. Avoiding Prison and Other Noble Vacation Goals by Wendy Dale -- Essays/Memoir by a young woman with a genetic tendency to wanderlust about her time in Central America with a boyfriend in prison and their quest to clear his name. Funny and smart, it was a quick read.
    2. Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman -- You might want to cross your legs while reading this one. I laughed so hard as Gilman describes her childhood as the daughter of progressive, Jewish hippies living in a predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood in New York City during the 70's who really only wear her tutu and grow up to be something that ends in "-ess" (stewardESS, princESS). So, so funny. Seriously, I think you'll laugh.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Does anyone else listen to "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me?" on NPR? It's a witty news quiz program that airs on Saturday mornings at 11:00 a.m. on our local NPR station. ( -- for an air time near you). In any case, one of the regular panelists on the show is Paula Poundstone, a comedian who, a few years back, got arrested for child endangerment when she was caught driving drunk with her three children in the car. They were going out for ice cream. Probably rum raisin. I think she is hysterical, sober or drunk, although I don't know her well enough to tell the difference. Nevertheless, she has written a book entitled There's Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say. It is FUNNY! What she did is she wrote short biographies about famous people like Joan of Arc and Abraham Lincoln and interjected her own thoughts and connections to her own life as a part of each piece. This makes for somewhat disjointed thoughts and connections that really stretch, but once you get the hang of her stream of consciousness, you will find yourself laughing aloud as you read. At least I did. Maybe it's because I like rum raisin ice cream. Maybe you like rocky road. You still might think it's funny. If you like vanilla, maybe not so much. Whatever, if you read it, let me know what you think!