Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mini Reviews: Elsewhere and Ex Libris

Good Saturday morning everyone! Thanks to the recent read-a-thon and all the pregnancy happenings and the birthday goings-on, I actually still have a backlog of books that need to be reviewed. It's a shrinking backlog, but this rarely ever happens as I don't read fast enough to have the reviews stack up. It's kind of a nice feeling; one that I'm going to obliterate right now as I review my final read-a-thon leftovers.

Anne Fadiman's essays, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, have been on my wishlist for years. My old library didn't have a copy, so I was tickled to find that my new one does! *kisses the feet of the new library*

It's a slim little book as most of you probably know. I feel like I'm the last book-nerd on earth to get hold of this one. It's a rare thing that I dislike a book about books, though it does happen on occasion. Happily, I sucked this one down without much problem. Powell's has a succinct overview:

Anne Fadiman is — by her own admission — the sort of person who learned about sex from her father's copy of Fanny Hill, whose husband buys her 19 pounds of dusty books for her birthday, and who once found herself poring over her roommate's 1974 Toyota Corolla manual because it was the only written material in the apartment that she had not read at least twice.

This review may be misleading in its squattiness. I found a TON of stuff in the book that I wanted to remember. Quotes I liked, long passages of bookish worship that need to live in my journal. Alas, I had to return it to the library in a fit of post-read-a-thon purging to keep from accumulating a mountain of library fines. I marked passages in pencil, so I can only hope to find them there when I recheck the book to snatch out all the good bits I loved.

On the other side of the coin, Fadiman is wicked smart (not that it's a bad thing), but I found her pretentious and annoying in spots, though my love of her bookish nature won out in the end.

My final book for the read-a-thon was probably my very favorite. I've only read one other Gabrielle Zevin novel, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, also a previous read-a-thon undertaking. While I enjoyed Amnesiac, I LOVED Elsewhere.

In this deilghtful novel death is a begining, a new start. Liz is killed in a hit a run accident and her 'life' takes a very unexpected turn. At nearly sixteen she knows she will never get married, never have children, and perhaps never fall in love. But in "Elsewhere" all things carry on almost as they did on earth except that the inhabitants get younger, dogs and humans can communicate (at last) new relationships are formed and old ones sadly interrupted on earth are renewed.

It's hard to explain what I like about Zevin's writing so much. It's just so...inviting! It's very easy to sink into her stories and her characters are sustainably quirky. I enjoyed her take on "heaven" after death, and I was happy that a main character--gone far too young--still had a chance to mature emotionally in the afterlife as she got younger and approached a rebirth.

Maybe the best way to describe Gabrielle Zevin's novels is vivid. Vivid characters, shiny details, and wonderful premises. I think I only have one of her books left: Margarettown. I can't wait to read it, but I wish she'd hurry up and write more!

And as I'm looking at her website: I see that she has a new novel for adults, The Hole We're In, coming out in March 2010. Hurray!

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