Sunday Salon – April 13, 2008

Sunday Salon

April 13, 2008


It feels as though nature has skipped Spring and headed directly into Summer this weekend. Temperatures have soared into the 80s and the sky is devoid of clouds for as far as the eye can see. Yesterday I lounged on my front porch reading and wishing I had a daybed out there to take a nap. I’ll be reading periodically today while waiting for the paint to dry on my bistro table and chairs.

My reading week in review:

sister.jpg The Sister, by Poppy Adams – a spooky, psychological thriller that kept me up late at night; another book worth reading (read my review)

cellistofsarajevo.jpg The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway – not even half way through 2008, I can say with some level of confidence that you’ll see this book in my top five reads of the year; amazing; heartbreaking; beautifully wrought (read my review).

Dipping into Essays:

Some of you may remember me talking about dusting off EB White’s book of essays last week. I’m true to my word and yesterday read from the Essays of E.B. White. Most people recognize White as an all-time favorite children’s author (one of my most loved books from childhood is Charlotte’s Web); but White also has an impressive body of work writing for The New Yorker magazine. His essay entitled: Good-Bye to Forty-eighth Street had me laughing and nodding my head in agreement. He writes about moving out of his apartment, struggling to rid himself of the many acquisitions cluttering up the place:

A home is like a reservoir equipped with a check valve: the valve permits influx but prevents outflow. Acquisition goes on night and day – smoothly, subtly, imperceptibly. I have no sharp taste for acquiring things, but it is not necessary to desire thing in order to acquire them. Goods and chattels seek a man out; they find him even though his guard is up. Books and oddities arrive in the mail. Gifts arrive on anniversaries and fete days. Veterans send ballpoint pens. Banks send memo books. If you happen to be a writer, readers send whatever may be cluttering up their own lives; I had a man once send me a chip of wood that showed the marks of a beaver’s teeth. Someone dies, and a littler trickle of indestructible keepsakes appears, to swell the flood. This steady influx is not counterbalanced by any comparable outgo. Under ordinary circumstances, the only stuff that leaves a home is paper trash and garbage; everything else stays on and digs in. -From The Essays of E.B. White-

This passage demonstrates White’s skill in engaging his reader, his dry humor, and his ability to enchant. I am looking forward to strolling through this book over the next weeks and will continue to share my reading with you.

Currently Reading:

angleofrepose.jpg Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner

I’m barely a fifth of the way through this 550 page book and loving it. Stegner has an absorbing style which transports the reader into the scene. He reminds me quite a bit of John Steinbeck, who is one of my favorite writers- and not just because he sets his novels in the west. His characters feel real to me and I want to know more about their lives.

Speaking of Steinbeck, did any of you catch this article posted by Robert Gottlieb in the New York Review of Books? As a Steinbeck fan, I felt like a mother bear while reading Gottlieb’s thoughts – fur raised, claws out, ready to do combat to defend my favorite author. Gottlieb’s essay questions Steinbeck’s right to the Nobel prize and criticizes his greatest effort (The Grapes of Wrath) as ‘a vertiginous conjunction of sweeping, irresistible narrative and highfalutin theorizing.’ Gottlieb writes about Steinbeck’s ‘compulsion to hector us with heavy-handed opinions and ideas‘ and delves into his personal life in this no-holds barred essay. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Do you agree? Is there truth there? Or, are you like me, ready to defend Steinbeck?

Well, I’m off to paint my little bistro table and chairs and enjoy the weather. Happy reading to all of you!

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  1. OK that settles it, I have to have a book of White’s essays. I’m off to Waterstones tomorrow. The Galloway book sounds wonderful as well. Is it out in the UK do you Know? I am trying not to be too envious of the weather. We had snow and hail yesterday and frost is forecast all week!

    • Jill on April 13, 2008 at 12:20

    I will be curious to see your review of the Stegner book – one I haven’t read yet. I hope you enjoy your weather. It’s unseasonably cool today in Tampa – only 64 degrees! It’s a nice last snatch of winter before the heat and humidity come and stay.

    Happy Sunday!

    • Wendy on April 13, 2008 at 12:37

    Ann: I believe The Cellist of Sarajevo will be published in the US in mid-May. I saw that rights to the book were also sold in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Taiwan and the United Kingdom…but I don’t know the publishing schedule. You could contact Riverhead Books, I suppose, and they might be able to tell you when it will be available in England. It really is wonderful. Sorry to hear about your weather…but May is coming up quickly and I just KNOW you will have spring there soon!

    Jill: Thanks! I don’t envy your humidity…I bet Spring is really the best time there as it is here. Summer in the Sacramento Valley can get very hot (averages over 100 degrees), but at least it is DRY! *laughs*

  2. I still haven’t managed to read The Sister yet, but yours and Michelle’s positive impressions on the book make me more eager to do so. And I’m especially looking forward to reading The Cellist of Sarajevo after reading your review. I’m working through another review book at the moment and have a couple more to go after this before I’ll be able to get to either, I’m sure. At least I know I have good reading ahead of me!

    I hope you enjoy the rest of your day. It’s getting to be too warm to want to be out and about here soon, I’m afraid. Almost 90F already and it’s expected to reach 97 before the day is out.

    Have a great week, Wendy.

    • Laura on April 13, 2008 at 13:58

    I don’t dare read that Gottlieb article, or there would be two angry mother bears on the loose!

    I also can’t wait to read ‘Cellist of Sarajevo’. Between your review & Jill’s, I’m convinced I’ll love it.

  3. Oh, Angle of Repose is one of my favorite books! Enjoy!

  4. I was enchanted by the passage you quoted from White’s essays, and am now on a quest for more! Thanks for sharing.

    Angle of Repose is one of my favorite books. I first read it probably 15 years ago, and have since re-read it twice.

    Enjoy your lovely weather – after a brief flirtation with spring earlier this week, it’s chilly and damp today.

  5. The Cellist of Sarajevo looks great. I will be adding that one to my TBR today. Have a great time in the lovely weather and soak up some sun for me. 🙁
    And…oh my! I checked out your blogs of lists and I am just sooo overwhelmed (in a good way!).
    Happy Sunday.

    • Andi on April 13, 2008 at 16:29

    Ugg, I love essays. I need another book of them, yes? 🙂

  6. Angle of Repose is a wonderful book. Glad you’re loving it. I read another of his – Crossing to Safety – last fall and wasn’t nearly as enamored with it.

    I didn’t get to E.B. White today, but soon! It’s just.. there… above my head on the book shelf!

    • Wendy on April 14, 2008 at 08:23

    WendyCat and Laura: You will both LOVE The Cellist of Sarajevo!

    WendyCat: 97 degrees feels a little too warm for this time of year…yikes! It got up to 80 here in the mountains yesterday. Hope you also have a great week.

    Rose City Reader: Thanks for stopping by. So far everyone seems to like Angle of Repose…I don’t know why I’ve waited so long to read it!

    Ravenous Reader: I’m going to just slowly work my way through White’s essays – he is so much fun to read that I know I’ll be disappointed when I’ve flipped the last page

    Mrs. B: You’ve discovered my obsession – LISTS! *laughs* I just can’t resist them…hope you have fun browsing.

    Andi: Yes *smiles*

    Terri: I just picked up Crossing to Safety at a library sale for $0.50 – I figure it’s a cheap experiment *grins* I’ll look forward to reading your thoughts on White’s essays.

    • Wendy on April 14, 2008 at 11:01

    Oh gee, I was half asleep this morning when I responded to comments…LAURA, I meant to also say to you that yes, you would become like a rabid mother bear reading that article on Steinbeck. I was grinding my teeth in despair!

  7. The Cellist of Sarajevo sounds like an amazing read, but I have to admit that the title alone was enough to make me add it to my reading queue. =)

    • bybee on April 15, 2008 at 01:58

    I wish you hadn’t just painted your little bistro table…I’d like permission to take it and throw it at Robert Gottleib. He’s got his fat nerve! Steinbeck is wonderful!

    I’m currently in the grip of Pulitzer Fever — reading and accumulating all the winners I can find. Luckily, I found Angle of Repose a couple of months ago. I’m looking forward to reading it this year!

    • Wendy on April 15, 2008 at 07:44

    Chayenne: *laughs* I thought the same thing – I knew nothing about the book but thought the title was intriguing…and also the cover art!

    Bybee: I agree (obviously) that Steinbeck is wonderful! I have not yet rated one of his books less than a 5/5. (but you can’t throw my bistro table at Gottleib – I’m using it now!). I made it through the 1/2 way point of Angle of Repose last night before I fell asleep. He reminds me A LOT of Steinbeck. I think you’ll enjoy the book.

  8. I’ve never read anything by Stegner, but I have a large stack that my mom has loaned me. Maybe I’ll start with Angle of Repose. I LOVE Steinbeck. I don’t dare read that article!!

    • aaron on April 16, 2008 at 16:20

    Hey there,
    I also found the Gottlieb article grating (I blogged about it here )

    Why does everybody hate the guy? Funny that Gottlieb would ask that question but act as hiw own best case study.

    • Wendy on April 16, 2008 at 17:55

    Les: I’m nearly through Angle of Repose now – and it is really wonderful. I keep saying this, but it’s true … if you love Steinbeck I think you will find Stegner’s work also a favorite. I know I will be reading more of his books in the future.

    Aaron: Thanks for stopping by. I read your post (and commented on it) – PERFECT response! I may have to point the Sunday Saloners your way come this Sunday…your blog is great!

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