Friday, June 24, 2011
The book's thirteen chapters, divided into Part A and Part B like sides on an LP (showing my age with that reference), follow characters from the punk rock scene of San Francisco in the 70s, through the New York suburbs of the 90s, to a post-modern Manhattan, with side trips to Africa and Naples. In each chapter the tone, the voice and the point of view change, as the stories move forward and backward in time in a discontinuous but not confusing flow. Music, both the creative and business side, is an element in many of the stories, and I can easily imagine that someone could create a CD with a track for each chapter. Characters appear as their young and older selves, overlapping with each other in unexpected ways.
Occasionally I thought that Egan tried to be a little too clever, but overall I was fascinated by the the complicated, interwoven lives of her characters.
Note to e-readers: There is a wonderful chapter created by a teenage girl as a Power Point slide show which you will need a magnifying glass to read. But it's worth it.
Monday, June 20, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
“There is just something about New Jersey that breeds a certain type of life and by extension, a certain type of person.” This is the opening line of Kristen Buckley’s coming of age memoir, “Tramps Like Us”. Kristen Buckley is a musician, a screen writer and a novelist. She has written a very funny, rather quirky memoir about how she got from the suburbs of New Jersey to the streets of Los Angelus, via New York City.
Kristen Buckley begins the story with the tragic-comedy event of her physician father announcing to his six year old daughter, “Now that that you’re six you don’t need a dad anymore.” Kristen promptly went home to her surviving parent and climbed into bed with her mother and her Korean brother and sister who had been adopted two months earlier.
And so began the odyssey of surviving in New Jersey in “70’s Divorce Hell”. From the exploding septic tank on the sprawling front lawn to the long lost Korean sibling who is rescued by Kristen’s mother, but whose knowledge of English is limited to profane four letter words.
For readers growing up in the seventies and eighties this story will have a certain resonance. But for those of us who didn’t grow up in that era or in New Jersey, this story is just plain fun. Buckley has a wry sense of humor, not to mention what a precocious, wise child she was. It is fun to laugh and commiserate with her and this crazy family as that make their way through a difficult time with a great sense of humor and determination.
By the end of this charming, laugh out loud story you are really routing for a girl who really didn’t care what anybody else thought as she tried to make sense of her wacky life. I love the section where she lists (the) 66 famous people who are from New Jersey. With this story, and Kristen Buckley’s accomplishments, there are now 67!
Friday, June 10, 2011
Friday, June 3, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Young Mary Panton is recovering from the death of her husband a year earlier. Friends who own a villa outside of Florence, Italy, have offered her the use of the place to recover her spirit and decide the direction her life will take. Maugham’s descriptions of the Tuscan countryside, the air, the gardens, the furnishings of the villa are so vivid. It is easy to imagine why Tuscany continues to draw travelers in and to hold them there.
Mary has a suitor who has proposed marriage. When he is called away from Florence for a few days on business, Mary promises to give him her answer upon his return. During those few days, events take several unexpected turns and other men enter the drama: brash, rich, ne’er-do-well Rowley and Karl, an impoverished refugee of war from Austria. It should come as no surprise: If one carries a gun, one should expect that it will go off.
The final line of the book sums it up nicely: “Darling, that’s what life’s for – to take risks.” You’ll have to read the book yourself to find out who is speaking and why.
The paperback copy that I read was published in 2000 by Vintage International. The cover is a beautiful rendition of a painting by Maxfield Frederick Parrish, The Villa Scassi, Genoa from 1904. By comparison the cover of the current edition is so atrocious that I couldn’t bring myself to add it to our blog. I used a copy of the painting itself instead.