I had a great week with Emma, who was visiting from Michigan this week. We had a lot of adventures, and I have many pictures to post. I also have a lot of Vox posts to catch up with, starting with my Polysyllabic Spree for March.
Comfort me with Apples by Ruth Reichl
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool
Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels by Deirdre le Faye
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott
Love As Always, Kurt Vonnegut as I Knew Him by Loree Rackstraw
A Little History of the World by E. H. Combrich
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
I bought one less book than I read this month, so that’s not too bad. Ruth Reichl has a signing for her new book at the end of April that I’m going to go to, so this month I found her three older books in hardcover so that I can get them signed along with her new one. I got great deals on them – Comfort Me With Apples was $5.95 at Strand, and Garlic and Sapphires and Tender at the Bone were about $7 each after shipping on Amazon Marketplace.
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl (library)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A Partisan’s Daughter by Louis de Bernieres (library)
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck
Love as Always, Kurt Vonnegut as I Knew Him by Loree Rackstraw
The Rose Variations by Marisha Chamberlain (library)
French Milk by Lucy Knisley (library)
A Moveable Feast by Ernest HemingwayReviews already posted: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, A Partisan’s Daughter, In a Sunburned Country. Future post planned for A Moveable Feast.
Garlic and Sapphires is Ruth Reichl’s third memoir. This one is about her time as the Food Critic at the NY Times. I loved her previous two memoirs as well, but this one is my favorite so far. After she was announced as the new Restaurant Critic, every single restaurant in New York City immediately had her photo hung up and a staff trained to keep an eagle eye out for her. She chose to create elaborate disguises for herself in efforts to have a “real” experience dining at the restaurants she reviewed. Not only did she change her entire physical appearance for these eating adventures, she changed her entire personality too, becoming the character she created. It makes for wonderful reading. I’m looking forward to her fourth book, Not Becoming My Mother, I found it at Strand last week for 50% in the review section, so I’ll be able to read it before her book signing.
A Year Down Yonder is the sequel to a book I read last month, A Long Way From Chicago. The latter received a Newbery Honor award, and the former won the Medal. This is the way I would have called it too. I enjoyed A Long Way From Chicago, but A Year Down Yonder was the most fabulous. Grandma is still my favorite character. One of the best lines in the book is, “And Grandma was packing a pistol.” Maybe one of the reasons why the sequel is better is that, as readers, we are already so fond of Grandma, so it’s very delightful to read more of her adventures.
A few times I started to open a new Vox compose window to write a full post on Love as Always, Kurt Vonnegut as I Knew Him. But the truth is I don’t have much to say about it at all. It was interesting, and I enjoyed reading it. It was a little weird, because I had never heard of Loree Rackstraw before, and the book is a memoir of sorts about her deep friendship with Kurt Vonnegut over the years. So there’s a lot about her life in there as well. Loree Rackstraw has had a very full, interesting life, and has been deeply involved in the literary world, especially in Iowa, for decades. None of that comes across very affectingly in the book though, it’s not really explored deeply – nor should it have been really, since it’s a book about certain parts or aspects of her life. I guess it was just a very challenging approach to a memoir – writing about someone so famous, from the viewpoint of someone in his inner circle of friends who wasn’t famous herself. I did really enjoy reading an intimate account of Kurt Vonnegut’s personality and life though. Very committed fans of Vonnegut will probably find it very interesting. For others, I’d recommend starting with one of Kurt’s own non-fiction “autobiographical colleges” or essay collections: Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons, Palm Sunday, or Fates Worse Than Death.
I discovered The Rose Variations at a bookstore while I was browsing new fiction. I wrote down the title and looked it up on Amazon when I got home. It had great reviews there, so I reserved it through the library. I enjoyed it; the story is interesting and I enjoyed the vivid characters. Here’s a description from Amazon:
In her first novel, poet and playwright Chamberlain tells the vibrant story of Rose McGregor, a talented composer navigating academia in the early days of feminism. A temporary appointment as the token “Girl Composer” at a Minnesota college puts 25-year-old Rose on her own for the first time; the older of two New Hampshire sisters, Rose has always been the plain, responsible one, caretaker to sister Natalie, but finds her professional and personal lives blooming in the cold weather of St. Paul. She falls in love with Guy, a stonemason who wants to whisk her off to his farm, but the affair falls apart. From there, Rose joins eccentric cellist Lila Goldensohn, who has turned her country home into an all-female retreat. Living off the land without the distraction of love, Rose returns to composing until Natalie unexpectedly arrives, pregnant and in distress, to overtake Rose’s life again. Following Rose’s music career to the city, the West Coast and back again, Chamberlain makes a charming, quirky fugue of Rose’s pursuit of love, independence and success.
French Milk by Lucy Knisley is a very fun graphic memoir of a girl who lives in Paris for a month with her mom. It’s not a particularly eventful month, but it’s her journal of the trip and is creative and interesting. I enjoyed it a lot, and now need to get my hands on her other book, Radiator Days, which is a collection of journal entries.
Short Stories Read:
“Brother on Sunday” by A. M. Homes (from the New Yorker, March 2, 2009)
“The Blue Devils of Blue River Avenue” by Poe Ballantine (from The Best American Short Stories 1998)
“Visitation” by Brad Watson (from the New Yorker, April 6, 2009)
(This post was brought over from emilyw.vox.com. Click here for the original post and comments.)