Sunday Salon – June 1, 2008

June 1, 2008

7:15 AM

Although I did not post a Sunday Salon last week, I have slowly been reading through everyone else’s thoughts. It is such a joy to spend the early morning hours sifting through the blogs, reading insightful and thought-provoking posts about one of my favorite topics – books! My coffee is hot, the dogs are laying at my feet, the pines are casting shadows across my porch…and so I guess it is time to settle down and share a few thoughts with you.

Since I last posted, I finished reading Chekhov’s The Kiss (read my review) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Later in the month I will be participating in both the 48 hour Book Challenge AND the 24 hour Read-A-Thon (if you’d like to sponsor me for the latter to help raise money for Reading is Fundamental, please check out my post about the challenge), and I hope to read the rest of Chekhov’s short stories during those events. I also read a wonderful short story by Alice Munro (read my review). I’ve discovered that searching on-line for short stories is a great way to delve into them without having to buy collections. The New Yorker has a great selection and also has podcasts. I encourage you to check it out!

In novel reading, I finished Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes (read my review). It is a startling and very well-written book centered around a school shooting. Lest the subject matter be off-putting to you, let me assure you that the book is less about the shooting and more about what leads up to it. I guarantee it is a novel that will haunt you. I like Picoult for just this reason – she attacks hard, current issues…showing both sides and introducing characters who feel like real people.

I also read Other Voices Other Rooms, by Truman Capote (read my review). Have any of you read this? I tried to stay open minded, but it is a bizarre book. There has been a lot of discussion about this novel being autobiographical. What I can say is that it is a waltz through some strange situations. Capote is a brilliant writer on many levels. His prose is gorgeous. And when he is on, he sweeps me away. But, I can’t recommend his first novel – too weird. If you’ve read it and have thoughts on it, I’d love to hear them.

I’ve been recently inundated with early review books. They all look good – and I’m having trouble deciding what to read from that stack. But, I did pull out Songs for the Missing, by Stewart O’Nan and loved it (read my review). I hadn’t read anything by this author before, but now I will be sure to add his other books to my wish list. Songs for the Missing is heartbreaking and beautifully written. It has edged onto my best books of 2008 list and I have a feeling it will stay in the top ten. It won’t be released until October…but when it comes out, read it. If you don’t love it, I’ll be surprised.

Finally, I finished up the month with Before You Know Kindness, by Chris Bohjalian (read my review). This novel takes on animal rights and gun control. As with most of Bohjalian’s novels, it is written from multiple points of view and has well-developed characters. I am rarely disappointed by this author (although last year I read The Double Bind and thought it was horrible – sorry, Chris!). This novel got me thinking about the line between fanaticism and being passionate for a cause. At what point does passion overflow into just being a nutcase? Where is the balance between one’s personal life and the time spent fighting for one’s causes…or is there no line between these? Have any of you read this book? What are your thoughts?

I started reading Bridge of Sighs, by Richard Russo last night. Here is another author I have not read before, but I’ve heard people rave about him. I was immediately drawn into this novel and despite being exhausted, I read past 11:00 PM last night. Russo has a gentle rhythm to his writing…one that appeals to me. I think I’m going to love this book.

I am planning on spending at least a part of today in the wicker chair on my porch reading. My husband and I have to drive into town and make a “Cosco run” this morning (I hate going there, but I cannot deny any more that my cupboards are bare). If we can be efficient, I should have most of the afternoon to sink into Russo’s hefty novel.

Happy Sunday, Saloners!

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    • Alisia on June 1, 2008 at 08:42

    I love reading the short stories that are in The New Yorker…I think it is one of the best sources for new short stories!

    I wonder if you despise your Cosco runs as much as I do my Sam’s club runs? I always seem to put it off as long as I can, which means until Maya is down to the last 3 or 4 diapers!

    Hopefully you’ll have lots of time on your porch this afternoon, happy Sunday!

    • Jill on June 1, 2008 at 10:27

    Richard Russo has a wonderful way about his writing style. Each chapter is like a mini-crescendo that weaves into a larger story. I liked Bridge of Sighs but was hoping for some editing – it is a chunkster (but I lose patience with most books after page 350).

    And if Chris Bohjalian drops by your blog, HI CHRIS!!!

    Have a great weekend!

  1. Wendy – do you really read and blog for 48 hours straight, no sleep?? I can’t even stay upright for 8 hours, let alone 48.

    Nice to see you in the Salon today. Oh – the Country of the Pointed Firs I talked about in my post was illustrated by Douglas Alvord, published 1991 by David R. Godine; my library edition is a softcover.

    See you soon!!!

    • Lisa on June 1, 2008 at 12:30

    Hello! I found your blog via The Sunday Salon and just wanted to drop in and say I really enjoyed your post. I hope your trip to Cosco didn’t take too much time away from your reading. I really enjoyed your thoughts on Richard Russo. I haven’t read any of his work, but you have me intrigued. I love getting new recommendations from saloners I haven’t ‘met’ before. Take care!

    • Lisa on June 1, 2008 at 12:35

    BTW, did I mention I LOVE YOUR BLOG??!! 🙂

  2. What a great round- up of all your reading/reviewing for the week!

    I’ve been a fan of Jodi Picoult’s and Chris Bohjalian’s for a long time. (I agree with you about Double Bind- ick!) I haven’t read Picoult’s new one though – I wonder if I’m getting a bit tired of her approach, which seems to be becoming somwhat formulaic.

    I read Russo’s Empire Falls and loved it…I haven’t read Bridge of Sighs, though I’d like to. I’ll be looking for your review!

  3. I hope you were able to spend your afternoon reading! I’m just about to start Bridge of Sighs, so I’m glad you are enjoying it so far. I loved When We Were Grown-ups, too — if you haven’t read Digging to America, yet, I strongly recommend it…

    • Wendy on June 1, 2008 at 15:09

    Alisia: I HATE Costco runs! And I’m sitting here chuckling at your waiting until you are down to the last diapers to do your Sam’s Club trips…sounds like me with the dog cookies and paper towels 🙂

    Jill: I was just thinking I should count Bridge of Sighs towards the Chunkster Challenge! He has a soothing “voice” and I’m still enjoying it!

    Terri: Oh no – I could NEVER stay awake that long! *laughing* The 48 hour challenge is just to devote a 48 hour time period to do as much reading and blogging as you can. I plan to sleep 🙂 NOW, the 24 hour Read-A-Thon is a different story … that one suggests you stay awake. So we’ll see! I’m making a note of your volume of Country of the Pointed Firs…I may have to get that one!

    Lisa: Thank you – you are very sweet! I love reading Saloner posts as well – and my recommendation list is getting longer and longer and longer!

    RR: I haven’t tired of Picoult yet – but I tend to read her books with big gaps in between them. Glad to hear you enjoyed Empire Falls (which I also have on my shelf!).

    Kristen: I am just now getting ready to go outside and read for a couple of hours (it’s 3:00pm here)…and I am so looking forward to it! I have Digging to America on my stacks TBR…I’m looking forward to getting to it!

  4. I have Bridge of Sighs in my stacks, too. Got it for Christmas and still haven’t gotten around to it yet! I really should since I loved Empire Falls, Nobody’s Fool and Straight Man. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying it.

    • Wendy on June 6, 2008 at 08:09

    Les: I’ve had a bad reading week – still working on Bridge of Sighs. It is not one of those books packed with action, so it is a slower read for me. But, I *do* enjoy Russo’s “voice.”

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