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Summer reading


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I picked up Sidney Poitier's "The Measure of a Man", and liked it a lot more this time. I also read "Julie and Julia" (Powell) which I found annoying, but not nearly as annoying as how the film sanitized the Julie character, and I just finished "A Most Wanted Man" (LeCarre), which I'd been hoping to read for a while.

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I've just finished a number of titles in the Inspector Montalbano series by Andea Camilleri (mentioned above). I can't remember when I last read a police procedural series in which (a) I felt real suspense about how the plot would turn out and (b) I actually went back to re-read episodes or bits of dialogue that turned out to be important to the solution of the crime(s).

I have found myself "living" in the small-city southern Sicilian setting and among the characters, remembering when they last appeared and looking forward to meeting some of them again. There's a certain amount of plot repetition, and there has been a tendency for things to get a little baroque in the later novels. Also, Montalbano is committed to an improbable long-distance relationship with a woman in Genoa. Otherwise, I can understand the international popularity of the character and the stories. (There are "Montalbano tours" in Sicily just like there are "Gattopardo" tours.)

10 novels are currently out in English. I'd recommend starting with the first (The Shape of Water) and working your way through more or less in chronological order, though it's not essential.

:sweatingbullets: Reading the latest, August Heat, in the middle of a south Florida August was quite interesting.

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I am 300+ pages into A Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I'm only up to Lincoln's 1860 inauguration, but it turns out to be an easy read, so I should be finished with it soon. I've always been fascinated by William Henry Seward's historical reach, and this is satisfying a lot of my questions about him.

Also almost done with a Julia Glass novel, I See You Everywhere. Very disappointing. I loved her first novel, Three Junes, but didn't think her second one was very good, and I'm disappointed again with the third. I don't think I'll read any future novels of hers unless they win a big prize. :( This one feels rushed and doesn't give me any insights whatsoever about anyone, and even if it eventually does, I don't much care about these characters anyway. :( It's a very quick read, though, so I'll finish it.

Contrast that Glass novel with one I just finished a couple days ago. Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge is a terrific novel (in 13 stories) whose main character is someone I'd probably dislike intensely. Doesn't matter though. Strout makes me want to understand her, to root for her even when I'm cringing at her behavior, and to want to know how the book resolves her life. I found it masterful. It's one of those books whose aura sticks with you for days and days after you've finished it.

I've also returned to a nonfiction book I started a few years back, but never finished: Leonard Shlain's The Alphabet Versus the Goddess. It's about literacy throughout history and how reading the alphabet has changed civilizations by changing our brain structure. Shlain develops an interesting theory about literacy's effect on women's lives. Fascinating.

This has been a terrific reading summer for me. I've had the great luck of being able to arrange my work schedule so that I can sit on a beach at the lake and read for a couple hours every single day. I NEVER get that kind of consistent reading during the school year except for the books my students have as required reading.

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Thanks for continuing to check in, vagansmom. Goodwin is a very readable writer, although also a notorious plagiarist, alas. I've heard nothing like that in relation to Team of Rivals, though.

Contrast that Glass novel with one I just finished a couple days ago. Elizabeth Strout's Pulitzer Prize winning Olive Kitteridge is a terrific novel (in 13 stories) whose main character is someone I'd probably dislike intensely. Doesn't matter though. Strout makes me want to understand her, to root for her even when I'm cringing at her behavior, and to want to know how the book resolves her life.

One of the biggest challenges a writer can take on is to make a reader understand and even sympathize with a difficult character, I think.

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Helene writes:

I picked up Sidney Poitier's "The Measure of a Man", and liked it a lot more this time. I also read "Julie and Julia" (Powell) which I found annoying, but not nearly as annoying as how the film sanitized the Julie character, and I just finished "A Most Wanted Man" (LeCarre), which I'd been hoping to read for a while.

Poitier was never a very exciting actor, for me anyway -- of course, he was hampered by the limitations of the roles he played and the dignified image he had to maintain -- but he was plainly a most intelligent one, so I'd think he'd come up with a decent book, if not an exciting one. :dunno:

I'm not familiar with the Julie/Julia book, blog, or movie, although I do plan to see the film very soon, but a person whose opinion I find reliable said much the same thing as you about the sanitization of Julie (adding also that Julie had done her own sanitizing from blog to book, and the blog was much the superior product).

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I haven't read/seen the Julie/Julia book/movie, but I'm curious about what happened to Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle. It's my impression that Julia was the great technician and teacher, and they were the real French chefs and knew the tradition inside out. (Julie Child's own personal recipe book did not seem that exciting when it came out.) Jane Grigson cleared the way for Alice Waters with her fruit and vegetable books, but MFK Fisher and Elizabeth David seem to have been originals. Please, movie gods, no biopics about them!

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Very true, she always has a good Presidential anecdote to tell on those shows!

As I recall she blamed her research assistants, but I think the consensus among the skeptical was that even if true, if research assistants are doing so much of the work that you’re unable to distinguish your own writing, there’s a problem somewhere. Some background.

Related.

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adding also that Julie had done her own sanitizing from blog to book

That's a frightening thought. Julie in the book has terminal PMS, and the descriptions of filth in her apartment are so graphic that I wouldn't step foot over the threshold, let alone eat there.

Rest assured, in the movie, there's no trace of cat hair or maggots, and Amy Adams cooks on bright new cookware. Luckily, half the movie is based on Julia Child's "My Life in France", and Meryl Streep is delightful as Child.

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And what are you reading this summer?

So far...

Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

Washington's Lady by Nancy Moser

Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs

Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs

Really Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs

Cast Two Shadows by Ann Rinaldi

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Julie in the book has terminal PMS, and the descriptions of filth in her apartment are so graphic that I wouldn't step foot over the threshold, let alone eat there.

In Ephron’s defense, it sounds as if she had been more faithful to Julie’s book/blog, the film might have been a combination of foodie biopic and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, not what people expect from a Nora Ephron picture. (I heard her say in a recent interview that she wanted the movie to inspire people to go out and have/make a good meal, so maybe she thought maggot shots wouldn’t get stomachs growling.)

Sounds like juicy reading, Rosa. What distinguishes the Really Bad Girls of the Bible from just the Bad Girls? And is Washington’s Lady a biographical novel or a biography? I've always been partial to biographical novels, even the less than great ones.

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I was responding to your comment that "that Julie had done her own sanitizing from blog to book". If the cat hair and maggots made it into the book, I'd hate to read what was in the blog.

I was less concerned that Amy Adams' Julie's kitchen was clean than in the sanitizing of the character. (When Julie Powell was told that Amy Adams would play her in the movie, her reaction was "Huh?") The Julie in the book could be lewd and bawdy, and was a far more interesting character, however annoying; in the movie, it's Streep who gets to be on occasion. What Ephron did was to make Julie "likable" in the current Hollywood princess mode. For example, the big argument in the book, when Eric Powell leaves, is precipitated when he and his family are terrified that an aunt living abroad may have been killed in a bombing in a war zone, and Julie is singularly and admittedly self-absorbed. It wasn't the little spat portrayed in the movie, with Julie as a sulky kitten.

What Ephron attempts is a parallel relationship movie, and if Amy Adams as an actress was voided by the direct comparison to Meryl Streep, Julie Powell's relationship with her husband, especially in this version, wasn't even a blip compared to the Julia/Paul Child marriage.

The Julia Child part of the movie was enough to make people want to make a good meal.

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Sounds like juicy reading, Rosa. What distinguishes the Really Bad Girls of the Bible from just the Bad Girls? And is Washington’s Lady a biographical novel or a biography? I've always been partial to biographical novels, even the less than great ones.

That is a good question, dirac. All the girls in both books are shady characters. What may distinguish the really bad girls is that what they did was considered very terrible in their time (and today): dabbling in the dark arts, committing scandalous adultery, murdering (and in some cases lovin' it), passing off as a prostitute, and suffering from an illness that labeled the woman as a sinner and being untouchable.

Washington's Lady is a historical novel. I enjoyed it very much.

I'm reading Elizabeth Gaskell for pleasure. :)

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Thanks for responding, Rosa. Sounds like a lively group of books. Not too long ago I read a biographical novel about Mrs. Robert E. Lee, "Lady of Arlington" - an older book that's dated in many ways but I still enjoyed it.

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Hi. I was thinking that I hadn't logged on to this message board in a long time, so here I am. I am not reading much this year for pleasure because I am back in school working on a masters. Lately Vogue magazine is all that I read, and not much at that. I did try to read The Duchess (Amanda Foreman) since I enjoyed the movie; I didn't make it all the way through the book because it was not easy to read and had lots of history about that time period, and I don't enjoy reading about history in that large of a quantity. I have read the book by Sidney Poitier and enjoyed it. Last year I was in a book club when I was not enrolled in school and we read that as one of our books. Another book we read was The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls; incredible, eye-opening book that I finished in 3 days-couldn't put it down.

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Hello, Tiffany. Thanks for posting. 'The Duchess' is a bit heavy going in places, and I thought at times that Foreman was working too hard to persuade us of Georgiana's political importance, but it was a good book to browse through. Good luck with your studies.

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Tiffany, I really enjoyed The Glass Castle too and like you, I found it riveting. I read it aloud to my husband a few weeks later. We constantly wondered how those kids managed to not be placed in foster homes.

I forgot to mention that earlier this summer, I also read a collection of E.B White essays, entitled One Man's Meat. It was published in 1942, and is a collection of his New Yorker essays from 1938-1942, when he'd first moved to a farm in Maine, and took up "gentleman farming." From a historical perspective, this book gives a wonderful perspective on the beginnings of WWII.

I'd previously read his other essay collections and letters, and loved them all. I'm a great fan of E.B. White. I'd read his three children's books as a young adult, and in 1980, fell in love with the man himself the day after I gave birth to my first child. I read a NY Times interview with him that day where he spoke about his marriage and how much he missed his wife, who had died in 1977. Here I was, just really at the beginnings of my marriage, and he was looking back lovingly through the 48 years of his marriage. I was so touched that I saved that article. It sits in my son's baby book to this day!

Two of White's books of essays are a staple on my bedside table, and are well-worn as I love to thumb through them before going to sleep. This particular collection predates his children's books, and in one funny essay, we find out what set him thinking about getting started on writing children's books. The rest is history, of course. :lol:

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I've just started reading 'Nothing Like the Sun' by Anthony Burgess. It's a fictional life of William Shakespeare or WS as he is called throughout the novel, even in the parts that are written in the first person. :lol: I'm not sure how I like it so far - I love the English language as much as the next person, but Burgess seems to be trying too hard to impress with his linguistic mastery. 16th century stream of consciousness... On the other hand, Burgess has incorporated WS' own writing, there are some pretty good sonnets. :wacko:

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I haven't, vipa, but perhaps someone else has. What is The Bad Necessity about, BTW?

The Bad Necessity: the unmentionable world of human waste and why it matters.

By Rose George

I know it sounds like an unreadable book in terms of the subject matter. It is readable, entertaining and thought provoking.

That said who has some light fiction to recommend?

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