What I Read – Pt. 2

The books that kept me company during "surgery week" must be blended in with other reading I've done lately, simply for the sake of convenience. Is it sheer laziness? Mmm, not entirely. Busyness and sheer exhaustion, more like it, though I'm happy to say I'm now able to walk without a crutch for most of the day. I'm on the mend!


The City of Falling Angels – John Berendt

What he did for Savannah, Georgia in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil he also did for Venice in Falling Angels. More a character study of various eccentrics than a true history of Venice, I absolutely loved this book. The language was simply beautiful, so lovely I read parts two and three times. Reading this on my Sony Reader (because I misplaced my library copy…), I highlighted a lot of text, both to aid discussion (I read it for my own Nonfiction Book Group at the library, a group that's on life support to be honest) and to enjoy it all over again.

Berendt does a wonderful job describing the Italians and their attitudes toward life. How would I sum that up…?  Compared to Americans, Italians are a carefree, life-loving people, less stressed by life and its bumps and bruises.

My husband's family is from Northern Italy, but it's my own perception the further south you go in Italy the more florid and romantic (in an aesthetic sense) the people get. I envy them in so many ways, while also finding their lack of seriousness at times a little annoying. That's just my American upbringing talking. We tend to be uptight. Just a little.

The one other person (!) who showed up for my book group last evening liked the book well enough (though she was disappointed Berendt didn't include more about himself as well as the history of Venice)and had been to Venice – as had I, on two occasions – but was unimpressed with the city. Unimpressed? thinks I! How? I find it one of the most mysteriously beautiful cities in the world. Ah, well.

And now I'd love to go on an Italian history binge. But my next obsession is supposed to be American philosophy (pragmatism)! Woe is me.



Making Toast: A Family Story  – Roger Rosenblatt

Rosenblatt takes what is a true tragedy – the unexpected, untimely death of his 30ish daughter – as the framework for what's basically a name-dropping festival. Somewhere on the periphery of the literary world, Rosenblatt spends so much time talking about the big names with whom he rubs elbows it's easy to forget this is a story about taking care of his grandchildren to help out his step-son. It reads more like a litany of the famous, giving the impression he'd like to be more famous himself.


[Review copy from publisher]


An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith – Barbara Brown Taylor

I don't read much that falls into the "spiritual" category. Self help, yes, I went through a two-year phase in which I read an embarrassing amount about how to accept yourself, how to undo depression and other books basically cheerleading (You can do this!) about life. But spirituality? Here and there I'd read bits about Eastern philosophies, but hardly anything at all about Christianity.

I enjoyed An Altar because it never preached. It was down to earth, stressing the sacred in the everyday:

"I learned reverence from my father. For him, it had nothing to do with religion and very little to do with God. I think it may have had something to do with his having been a soldier, since the exercise of reverence generally includes knowing your rank in the overall scheme of things. From him I learned by example that reverence was the proper attitude of a small and curious human being in a vast and fascinating world of experience. This world included people and places as well as things. Full appreciation of it required frequent adventures, grand projects, honed skills, and feats of daring. Above all, it required close attention to the way things worked, including one's own participation in their working or not working."

This sort of philosophy I can appreciate.

[Free review copy from publisher]


The Song of the Whales  – Uri Orlev

It started off a charming tale about a grandfather taking his grandson into his dreams, flying him into a world of fantasy. But then it turned dark and disturbing in a way that frightened the young boy, as things became more surreal and menacing. At that point I was repulsed. Hardly a book you'd want to read to a young child, and a story not complex enough to appeal to an adult audience. So, to what audience did he intend to appeal?

I know most fairy tales are dark with disturbing elements, but this book was over the top. It made no sense the grandfather would turn from kindly and loving to some sort of sadist. A book that made my skin crawl.

[Free review copy from publisher]


The Tale of Halcyon Crane – Wendy Webb

I thought this book must be a joke. It's a modern day take on the gothic so exaggerated it's laughable. A young, beautiful (of course) woman inherits property and money from a deceased mother she didn't know existed. Of course there's a huge, old house involved, or there'd be little for the ghosts to haunt. And a cemetery. There must be a cemetery.

Webb packs the story with every gothic element you could dream of, to the extent I actually did laugh out loud. Did she mean this to be serious? Unfortunately, I think so.

[Free review copy from publisher]

Still not caught up with recent reading, but as you'll see it's been pretty active of late. Part of that's because I've all but cut out all TV viewing – not that I did much before – in favor of reading. This morning, for instance, I woke early, partly due to several sirens screaming down the street (utterly rude to have emergencies before 8:00 a.m.) and ins
tead of turning on the useless television news I picked up a book from my review pile.

Moral: Maximize all your time, and never, never be without a book!

And that advice comes from an INFORMATION PROFESSIONAL. Solid, to say the least.

One thought on “What I Read – Pt. 2

  1. I, too, was a bit disappointed with Making Toast. I expected a more intimate portrait of Rosenblatt’s newly formed family, but came away from it feeling like he’d glossed over all the personal moments. And, yet, as I wrote my review, I realized I got more out of this memoir than I thought when I finished it a few weeks ago.
    BTW, I’m updating my blogroll and came across your blog, realizing it’d been ages since I’d visited. I love the fresh new look, and as always, your photos are gorgeous. I’ll be back more frequently now. 🙂


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