summer book club 09: son of summer book club

School starts again on the 25th! Only a little while left to read! It is time to make moves.

Now Is the Hour, Tom Spanbauer. Okay, confession: I didn’t finish this. I just couldn’t do it. When you get to page 250 and find yourself asking when it will just end already, it’s time to return it to the library. It wasn’t awful – it had a charming beatnik bombshell and a gay Indian! – but it was kind of ridiculous in places, and I didn’t believe half the characters or really like the protagonist, and also it was hella long. Also, I have to admit that the writing style reminded me of someone who was in a workshop with me once and whose work particularly did not resonate with me. So maybe I’m biased. I feel like this book could have worked if Spanbauer had had an editor who pushed him to CUT some (ok, a lot of) stuff and whittle this down to 250-300 pages – at least then I would have finished it – but he didn’t.

Then We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris. I heard a lot a lot about this before starting it, so I wonder if maybe I wouldn’t have been more in awe if I walked into it unawares. Even so, though, it was rather lovely. At first I was confused because it kind of felt like a short story to me – not many people can keep up a style of narration based on a nameless plurality of people for a whole novel – and so it was a little weird that it just kept going, past page 50 and then past 100. But I read it in essentially one day, so you know it was good. Most engrossing of all was Lynn’s story, so don’t stop reading until you get to that. The ending was a little cheesy, but who really minds that? Not me.

I’m Down, Mishna Wolff. I think this has already gotten fantastic reviews from everyone ever, so my saying I loved this is not really the cutting edge. Whatever. This is billed as an analysis of race-in America in memoir form, which is not incorrect. Mishna and her sister were poor white kids raised in a poor black neighborhood by a father who refused to see that there was anything different about them and their neighbors. Their growing up was a kaleidoscope of race and class and social issues, and it really is fascinating to see the ways in which those are sometimes the same thing and sometimes different things and sometimes totally nonsensical. My favorite part is Mishna and her sister watching a yuppie white girl listening to NWA on her Walkman and cluelessly shouting the lyrics out loud, and then Mishna turning to ask her sister in disbelief “What the fuck is wrong with white people?” What I really loved about this, though, was watching Mishna’s (fiercely loving, but totally fucked up) relationship with her father. As someone whose relationship with her father operates on similar terms, I could relate so hard, and was so impressed with how exactly right she got it. I ended up feeling really moved that I am not the only one in the world to have experienced that whole range of emotions. And the ending is perfect – I can’t really explain how or why, but I just thought it was really great.

Water For Elephants, Sara Gruen. I am so behind the times on this one, but whatever. Basically: I liked it! It features a love triangle and an abusive man, two things which I usually hate/refuse to read about, but the ending was so unapologetically happy that it turned out okay. The stand-out part of the book is that it is about the CIRCUS, and so it has AWESOME stuff like circus lingo (redlighting! rubes! kinkers! cooch tents!) and a badass ELEPHANT and a cranky but lovable performing midget and… lots of other stuff. I don’t know if you can tell, but I love circus stories. It’s not all cotton candy and pretty girls on horses, though; 90% of this is actually super dark, and I was uneasy for most of it (“What’s going to happen to Marlena? I hope Rosie’s okay! Poor Kinko!) except then Gruen is like “Just kidding! Everything is okay in the end.” Thanks for that!

TUNE IN SOON for stuff I hate, also my boyfriend is totally coming home this weekend so get ready for a lot of posts after that about sunshine and rainbows and unicorns. Sorry in advance.

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