Sunday, May 08, 2011

TSS - The Mother's Day Salon!

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there! I hope you're all being ridiculously pampered and loved upon. My family gifted me the opportunity to sit in a bookstore for a couple hours this morning, and I'm taking the opportunity to read and blog while I have the chance. Grades for my online classes are due this week, so beginning tonight or tomorrow, I'll be in a grade posting frenzy!!!

For now, I'm camped out at Barnes and Noble with my laptop, enjoying a Skinny Caramel Macchiato and deciding which book to read next. I polished off A.S. Byatt's Little Black Book of Stories last night, and I was REALLY impressed. Glowing review coming soon.

I have several books from the library, and my intention was to pick up Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen, next for my personal Tournament of Books Reading Challenge. This leads me to an epiphany...

What the last couple years of reading have taught me is that I've sort of lost my reading identity since I graduated from my Masters program. That is, then I was motivated by the company I kept to read a lot of children's and adolescent fiction and a lot of literary fiction. That's just what we talked about, so that's what I read.

With my reading in shorter supply this year, I find myself really craving quality reading. If I'm going to carve out lunch hours and late nights of the written word, it'd better be good!!! The blogs I enjoy reading the most and the books I lust after the most are typically literary fiction, so I'm making a concerted effort to read more of it this year. Thus, the Tournament of Books reading challenge.

What I also know about myself, is that I DO NOT want every book I read to be about dysfunctional families. There tends to be a slog-worthy bunch of dysfunctional families in literary fiction, so I typically gravitate toward those with a specific angle. Maybe it's a touch of magical realism (Lemon Cake) or a dark and sinister mood (Little Black Book of Stories). As I read the blurb for Freedom last night, and as I slogged through the first 10 pages, what I realized is that it seems to be a more straightforward dysfunctional family story. I doubt anyone will sense emotions in food, let's just put it that way. After 10 pages I kinda wanted to pluck my eyeballs out!

Franzen is undboutedly a talented writer, but he also comes across to me as a bit of a verbose and pompous ass! Does that mean I won't read his book? Certainly not! However, I do think I have to be in just the right mood. In the spirit of reading quality books that DON'T make me want to maim myself, I'm considering a couple of other options.

Y'all know how much I LOVED The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. It's one of my very favoritest books ever. I also read his follow-up to that novel, Specimen Days. While SD wasn't as fabulous, it was still pretty good and it had an interesting angle. Not sure yet how angular this one is, but I'm hoping Cunningham can slap me with the same emotional oomph that he did in The Hours.

Blurb: Peter and Rebecca Harris: mid-forties denizens of Manhattans SoHo, nearing the apogee of committed careers in the arts—he a dealer, she an editor. With a spacious loft, a college-age daughter in Boston, and lively friends, they are admirable, enviable contemporary urbanites with every reason, it seems, to be happy. Then Rebecca's much younger look-alike brother, Ethan (known in the family as Mizzy, “the mistake”), shows up for a visit. A beautiful, beguiling twenty-three-year-old with a history of drug problems, Mizzy is wayward, at loose ends, looking for direction. And in his presence, Peter finds himself questioning his artists, their work, his career—the entire world he has so carefully constructed.

I also received an ARC of Siri Hustvedt's new novel, The Summer Without Men, a while back. I've tried getting into this slim volume a couple of times, and I haven't had the most luck thus far. What I've adored about Hustvedt in the past in her novella, The Blindfold, and her novel, What I Loved, is her rich blend of psychology, academia, art, and emotion. She's whip-smart and a really talented writer, but I didn't love her previous novel, The Sorrows of An American, and so far Summer is only so-so at best. I keeping hoping if I persist past page 30 I'll be enthralled. Although, the premise of this one seems far more ho-hum than any of her previous works.

Blurb: Mia Fredrickson, the wry, vituperative, tragic comic, poet narrator of The Summer Without Men, has been forced to reexamine her own life. One day, out of the blue, after thirty years of marriage, Mia's husband, a renowned neuroscientist, asks her for a "pause." This abrupt request sends her reeling and lands her in a psychiatric ward. The June following Mia's release from the hospital, she returns to the prairie town of her childhood, where her mother lives in an old people's home. Alone in a rented house, she rages and fumes and bemoans her sorry fate. Slowly, however, she is drawn into the lives of those around her — her mother and her close friends, the Five Swans, and her young neighbor with two small children and a loud angry husband — and the adolescent girls in her poetry workshop whose scheming and petty cruelty carry a threat all their own.

That's where I am in my reading this Mother's Day. I'm closing up the laptop to go have lunch with my mom right now and then back home to hang with Chuck, The Rockets, and Baby G for the afternoon and evening. See you all later this week!

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