September 2008

“Morality Tale” By Sylvia Brownrigg (2008) 224 pages

Started reading Sept 15, Finished reading Sept 24.

The fact that this book took me nine days to read is totally misleading. First of all, I have gotten completely swept up in Voter Registration madness (Not registered? Go! Go! and have been falling a bit behind on everything. By the time I collapse into bed at midnight, I am lucky to get in 10 minutes of reading before falling asleep. Which brings me to the second issue- if I had had one continuous chunk of, say, 3 hours, I am pretty sure I would have finished this book in one sitting. But alas, I didn’t. It took me 7 nights of 10 minutes here and there, and then two nights of “I am not turning off this light until this book is done, damnit, I don’t care if it is 1 am.” (by the way- guess who did care that it was 1 am. I’ll give you a hint. His name rhymes with “Nosh”.)

Anyway. Good novel. So good that I broke my own rule of reading two modern, literary novels in back-to-back weeks, just because Elizabeth said “You are going to LOVE this”. (OK, admittedly the fact that she read it on two days was persuasive, too. Always looking for the fast read, I am….) Whats it about? An affair that isn’t quite an affair. And its all very, very convincing. (How could Sylvia Brownrigg have been able to write this and not almost had an affarir herself? Well, I don’t know if she did or didn’t, but my bet is on yes. Or, yes, almost, in this case.) And written in an unusual but still very-readable style. Have you ever heard of a book where you don’t know the names of the main characters? And the places are described completely realistically but never mentioned by name? It’s all very specific and true, and yet anonymous at the same time. Anyway, new novel, new author (to me, anyway– I see that she’s written other books but I hadn’t heard of her before), but all highly recommended.


“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” By Mark Haddon (2003); 226 pages

Started reading September 8, finished reading September 12.

If you’ve been reading the blog all along, you might remember that in the first week, it occured to me that if I barely had time to read a book a week, finding the time to produce a passable book review (essay, blog post, whatever) might be an even greater challenge. Well, considering that I finished this book 8 days ago and am just now posting about it, I would say that my original concerns were probably well-founded. The actual reading of this particular book was lovely– it’s a super-fast read, intelligent, funny and quirky. (And exactly what I needed to keep the challenge moving along.) For those of you who haven’t heard of it, this is a novel told from the perspective an a 15-year-old boy with autism (autistic boy), ostensibly about the mystery that he is “detecting”, the case of a dead dog found in his neighbor’s yard. Aside from that mystery, there are other twists too. In all, a fun book. But now I’m off to keep reading Book 8 (not even a third of the way through….sigh) so that’s about as much of a blog post as I can muster right now.

So I have my first official blog-follower!

My friend Elizabeth and I have similar tastes. We both crave Ruan Thai at least twice a week, we both like moving around furniture, and we agree that Nancy Botwin is the style icon of the 21st century. It’s become a running joke that Elizabeth likes to frequently follow my lead… When we all started getting cel phones, Elizabeth knew she didn’t need to research what type to buy, it was just easier to get the same exact one that I had bought the previous week. Same for her digital camera. Same for her car. And, same profession. (OK, kidding on that one–we do have the same job, but we became architects before we met, and she beat me to it by a few years. Nonetheless, it’s pretty funny having a close friend with the same job and the same vehicle. see left. can you spot the (very small) difference?)

Anyway, Elizabeth has precious 18 month-old twins and her own business designing really great things and is in all rather busy– but she would still like to be reading more than just her weekly dose of the tabloids. But alas. Boggle, Jon Stewart, crosswords, and the conventions await. However… Elizabeth has told me that as long as she doesn’t have to pick what’s next on her reading list, as long as I just hand her a book, she will read whatever I give her. In her mind, the choosing and the getting takes as much effort as the reading itself. Given the dedicated way she pursues a book, this is not surprising: First she goes to the library in search of a book. When they don’t have what she wants, she goes to B&N. And when they don’t have it, then she orders it there. And then goes to pick it up a few days later. Which means three trips across town for one book. I am much lazier- I just read whatever is within reach of wherever I am when I finish the previous week’s material.

While Elizabeth isn’t going to be reading all 50 of the books on my list, she has promised that whatever I hand her is what she will read next. (Feel free to join Elizabeth in the vicarious book challenge–although unless you live down the street or come to GirlsLunch every week, you’re own your own with the procurement of the actual book.) I’m even going to help her out a bit: In order to make sure that everything she reads for the next year is straight from the blog, if you give her a must-read, expect that I will read it too. Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for a novel called “Morality Tale” recommended by Elizabeth’s sister Carrie.

Anyway, we didn’t exactly get this new program off to a great start: On Sunday I brought the Obama book into Elizabeth’s house and then through some confusion involving Ben and Josh, the book somehow ended up back in my car again when brunch was over. Which of course I didn’t notice until we got home. In this case, the matching cars cannot be blamed– I was entirely at fault for entrusting a 3-year-old as courier.

PS I am happy to report that Elizabeth got a new camera that so far exceeds the fabulousness of my own, I have a fit of jealousy every time I see it.

“Foreskin’s Lament” By Shalom Auslander (2007); 310 pages

Started reading August 31, finished reading Sept 7.

I’ve been planning on starting this memoir for at least a year. I read an excerpt a while ago in the New Yorker, and not long after, the cute toile-covered book appeared in our house, courtesy of one of Josh’s nice book reps. But with something else always waiting to be read, this memoir of a yeshiva-boy-gone-bad kept getting bumped down the list. It was only this challenge (and that I needed non-fiction this week) that prompted me to start (and finish) it. Yeah, that makes it sounds as if I didn’t enjoy the book, which is not true–It’s just really disturbing.

Auslander grew up in a very observant orthodox Jewish community and was told pretty much from the beginning all the bad things that would happen to him if he didn’t follow God’s every word. This really did a number on him. And I thought I was neurotic. Wow. Worrying is indeed a learned behavior (thankyouverymuch, family & Hebrew school) but now I see how I escaped relatively unnscathed: Shalom Auslander’s family and teachers really screwed him up. He began rebelling when he was around 8. And what would be considered run-of-the-mill rebellion for regular teenagers (shoplifting, porn… eating non-kosher) is really bad in his community. The book jumps back and forth from his childhood and adolescence to the present day and includes an ongoing dialog with God, as well as a lot of discussion about circumcision. Thus the title, which is quite apt. (And take a close look at those cover images – upon further inspection, I discovered that the sweet toile print actually isn’t misleading at all.) Auslander is a terrific writer but his story is much more about why his own life was screwed up than about why religious Jews are the way they are. He covers the neuroses and the confusion and the whys, and for people who grew up in similar communities, parts of this book will really ring true. And for people like me, who know religious Jews but are themselves more secular, this is a rather compelling insider tell-all. But if this your introduction to Jewish people, I’d start out with someone a lot less troubled.

So I just went to see what would happen if I googled 50 books. Would my blog pop up? Um, No. But guess what did– about a thousand other blogs with. the. same. exact. idea. I swear that I hadn’t seen any of them before starting this one, but some even have the same name! Apparently lots of other people have taken on a similar challenge — LiveJournal even runs a site for everyone to keep up together, or something like that. Although I feel a bit deflated because I thought I originated the idea, overall the fact that all these people are reading so much is pretty cool. And I’m happy that I have one more resource for book lists… But a word of warning: I almost lost an hour looking at all of the book-blog stuff online, which is almost as bad as losing it to TV. So with that, I’m off to continue with Book 6, “Foreskin’s Lament”…

PS I just told my sister this story, and her response- “That’s just like in Knocked Up when the guys found out about Mr. Skin.” So, so true.