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Sunday Salon – May 18, 2008

May 18, 2008

9:20 AM

I’m back after missing the last two Sunday Salons. Did you miss me? My husband and I celebrated five wonderful years of marriage and took a four day trip to Mendocino, California (an almost six hour drive from our home) to enjoy the coast and relax at a fabulous Bed and Breakfast called the John Dougherty House.

Even though I wasn’t posting to the Salon, I was reading. The last couple of weeks has found me devouring some great books.

I finished Independent People, by Halldor Laxness (read my review) and loved its stark, haunting beauty and prose. I had never heard of Laxness before reading this classic, and will be looking for more of his books in the future.

I also read a short story by Haruki Murakami which was actually part of a collection called After the Quake and entitled: Landscape With Flatiron (read my review). This short story was my first introduction to this author and I was strangely captivated, although Murakami’s work is not easy to interpret. It helped that I read this for the 21st Fiction Yahoo Group and had the benefit of other readers’ thoughts to assist me in sorting things out.

Next I picked up The Zookeeper’s Wife, by Diana Ackerman (read my review). Ackerman is a naturalist and this book centers around a Polish zookeeper and his wife living in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation. Ackerman writes like a novelist (she is also a poet) which kept me turning the pages. I have to caution those readers who are animal lovers like myself – this is a tough book to read at times. The cruelty of the Nazis not only encompassed Jews, gypsies, mentally ill, disabled, and anyone not Aryan…but also animals they did not consider “pure.” The book demonstrates how people living through this horror retained their humanity in the face of evil.

I needed some lighter reading after Ackerman’s book and decided to pick up a book sent to me direct from the publisher to review. The Bright Side of Disaster, by Katherine Center (read my review) is a wonderful read targeted at women. In memory of a fellow blogger who died last year from cancer at the age of 33 (Nattie), I joined a challenge to read a book which reminded me of her…and this was the book I picked. As part of the challenge, we were also encouraged to give away a book – and here I experienced the generosity of an author. Katherine Center emailed me and offered to send me an autographed copy of her book to give away. To win this great book, read my post about the giveaway and leave me a comment. I’ll be drawing a winner on May 23rd…and actually, I’m giving away TWO copies of the book (one autographed).

I next breezed through Laughing Without An Accent, by Firoozeh Dumas – a memoir about Dumas’ experiences as an Iranian American in both Iran and the United States (read my review). I don’t always like memoirs because the always seem to be filled with angst and dysfunction. Dumas’ book, however, was a joy to read – funny, insightful and well-written.

My current read is one which has been sitting on my bedside table for several months: Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult. I’m 100 pages into the book and it sucked me in immediately. Picoult’s books always do this for me – engaging and paced well, they are usually quick reads.

I’m also thinking about reading a short story today for the Russian Lit Yahoo group. The Kiss, by Anton Chekhov is up for discussion and I recently purchased The Essential Tales of Chekhov (edited by Richard Ford) … so it is calling to me. Have any of you read Chekhov’s work? This will be my first by him.

This has been a longer post than I intended! It is a gorgeous, albeit hot, day in Northern California today – and I am gazing longingly at my hammock. I’ll leave you with some photos I took last night when my husband and I attended the Redding Rodeo – a real Americano experience if there ever was one!

*click on images to enlarge*

16 Comments

  1. May 18, 2008    

    Since I have you on Google Reader and read what you post during the week, I don’t feel like you have been gone anywhere…lol! I enjoy reading your blog during the week, not just on Sundays. 🙂 I have “Nineteen Minutes” in my TBR pile. I am hoping to get it read before 2008 is done…lol!

    So glad you & hubby had fun. Sounds like a blast!

  2. May 18, 2008    

    What fun! I’ve been away myself, and I’m ready to slip back off into vacation land already! I’m so in the mood for Murakami right now. I might have to pull After Dark off my shelf for this week’s reading.

  3. May 18, 2008    

    I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Redding Rodeo, but I lived in Red Bluff (1968-1972) and I think I went to the rodeo there. I was in elementary school at the time.

  4. May 18, 2008    

    Murakami is a writer I have been thinking about trying for sometime without ever quite being able to get round his reputation for being ‘different’ . A short story would be a good way of acquainting myself with his style. Is the whole collection by him, or is there a general editor?

  5. May 18, 2008    

    Happy anniversary, and welcome back! I look forward to reading your thoughts on Chekhov. I haven’t read any of him myself but I’ve read a fair amount of other Russian lit and have a special fondness for it.

  6. May 18, 2008    

    JKaye: Thanks for following my blog 🙂 I also have your on my Google Reader. Great minds think alike? *laughs*

    Andi: Sounds like you have read and enjoyed Murakami’s work…After Dark is one his books that keeps calling to me. Looks like I should read it!

    Les: Wow – didn’t realize you had lived in Red Bluff (although I was living in New Hampshire during those years). We’re getting triple digit weather right now – which seems way too early for me!

    Ann: I actually read Murakami’s short story on line (I believe I gave the link in my review of it)…but is came from that collection, which I understand is great. I’m not sure who the translator is…

    Julie: Thank you! I just finished reading The Kiss – and really enjoyed it, although I will need to think about it a bit before writing my review. I also enjoy the Russian literature like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

  7. May 18, 2008    

    I remember those triple digit summers. 118 stands out in my memory. Instant headache weather!

  8. May 18, 2008    

    Welcome back to the Salon! This was my first Salon post in a few weeks as well, and it didn’t turn out to be a very good one…as soon as I started writing it Maya turned into miss grumpy-pants, so my attention was constantly diverted. 🙂

    Happy Anniversary!

  9. May 18, 2008    

    Les: *laughing* I hate when it creeps up near 120. My first few summers here I started complaining when it reached a mere 100 degrees. Now I think it feels “comfortable” as long as it doesn’t get over 110 🙂

    Alisia: Thank you! I thought your post was great!!! And now, knowing that your little one was helping, I am even more impressed 🙂

  10. 3m 3m
    May 18, 2008    

    Happy Anniversary!!

  11. May 18, 2008    

    Congratulations on you wedding anniversary, Wendy!
    I am still on the fence about whether or not to read The Zookeeper’s Wife. It’s been begging me to pick it up at my local bookstore for a while now.

    Chekhov’s short stories are wonderful, I think. I haven’t read any for a while, but I did enjoy them very much when I read some a couple of years ago. I guess I should take them up again!

  12. May 19, 2008    

    I read your *normal* posts too through google R! I’m glad to hear you had such a great trip – Happy Anniversary!

    I really enjoyed Nineteen Minutes – I like the way Picoult’s books always make you think.

  13. May 19, 2008    

    Small world moment. We stayed at John Dougherty House a couple years ago on vacation. What a lovely place for an Anniversar getaway.

  14. May 19, 2008    

    Michelle: Thanks!

    Myrthe: Thank you! I really liked Chekhov’s The Kiss – I’ll blog about it soon 🙂

    Mrs. S.: So glad you follow my blog regularly…thank you! I’m loving Nineteen Minutes!

    Suzi: WOW…small world is right! It was the perfect get-away weekend.

  15. May 21, 2008    

    Hooray for NorCal! I grew up in Davis and spent my first college summer in Chico, sitting on the floor of an apartment playing around on AOL with sweat just running down my body… it was pretty excellent. Now I live in Oakland and am very petulant that it doesn’t stay hot for any length of time, even though I am happy that it also never stays rainy or cloudy for very long. I miss the heat!!

    I can’t wait to go back to Mendocino… my girlfriend and I spent a weekend there, visiting her grandparents, at the end of March (I think) and it brought home to me that it is time to propose to her. I guess it’s a very romantic place 😉 Happy anniversary!!

    I am dying to read The Zookeeper’s Wife now… it sounds right up my alley and very much in line with the kind of stuff I write about. Abuse (from the personal to the political) and its effects and how people find recovery and joy despite it – retaining that humanity and hope. I’ve also had my eye on “Laughing Without an Accent” for a while, so I’m glad to get that little extra push toward actually reading it!

  16. May 22, 2008    

    Danica: Thanks for stopping in! Chico is a great town…I don’t get there too often these days because of gas prices and it is a bit of a drive 🙂 I love shopping the antique stores there! Thanks for the good wishes on our anniversary! By the way, I subscribe to your blog – I used to work with children who had suffered abuse (before I became a Physical Therapist) and so abuse is a topic which I believe must always be talked about – I think you would find The Zookeeper’s Wife interesting from that point of view as well.

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