The 12th Five Books, 2009 (kimball, wowza, beedle, ted, dud)


060) The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy, finished July 1
    I am very sad to learn that Elaine Dundy died last year. Because I liked her book and her afterward, not three years old, is very charming.
      The Dud Avocado
      Dear Mrs Tynan [her married name], I don't make the habit of writing to married women, especially if the husband is a dramatic critic, but I had to tell someone (and it might as well be you since you're the author) how much I enjoyed The Dud Avocado. It made me laugh, scream and guffaw (which incidentally is a great name for a law firm). If this was actually your life, I don't know how on earth you got through it. Sincerely, Groucho Marx.

      I liked your book. I liked the way your characters all speak differently. My characters all sound the same because I never listen. [Ernest Hemingway]

    (It was the first one that finally got me to pick up the book.)

    So this novel has been called the world's first chicklit, and there's a lot to that, I suppose. Sally Jay Gorce goes to France and madcappery results. It took me a good number of pages to get into it, but I finally did and I quite enjoyed it.

    It's a first novel, which brings up the ol' how-autobiographical-is-it question. She says, "When people ask me how autobiographical the book is I say, all the impulsive, outrageous things my heroine does, I did. All the sensible things she did, I made up."

    In the intro by Terry Teachout says it's full of sentences she wishes she had written. Her examples all come from the beginning of the book, but mine come mostlyn later and some could be construed as spoilers, so tread carefully.

      And I remember a little later wondering why things always turn out to be diametrically opposed to what you expect them to be. It's no good even trying to predict what this opposite will be because it fools you and turns out to be the opposite of that, if you see what I mean. If you think this is geometrically impossible all I can say is that you don't know life.

      - - - | - - -

      What a world, I thought. Nothing but sex as far as the eye can see.

      - - - | - - -

      Larry was right. What was the use of remembering? If it was unpleasant, it was unpleasant. It it was pleasant, it was over.

      - - - | - - -

      We looked at the menu. "Hah! Avocados," he said, brightening. "How I love them. Cheer up, my little avocado," he said to me, pinching my hand. "You know, these American girls are just like avocados. What do you think, am I right, Max? Who ever even heard of an avocado sixty years ago? Yes, that's what we're nowadays." His avocado arrived and he looked at it lovingly. "the Typical American Girl," he said, addressing it. "A hard center with the tender meat all wrapped up in a shiny casing." He began eating it. "How I love them," he murmured greedily. "So green--so eternally green." He winked at me.

      "Stefan, please. . . ."

      "No, it's true. And I will tell you something really extraordinary, mes enfants. Do you know that you can take the stones of these luscious fruits, put them in water--just plain water, mind you--anywhere, any place in the world, and in three months up comes a sturdy little plant full of green leaves? That is their sturdy little souls bursting into bloom," he finished off, well satisfied with his analogy.

      - - - | - - -

      It's not real, I'd say over and over again. It can't be real. Judy lying in the hospital, probably dying. Larry pimping and theiving and beating up girls. Me in jail. How did it happen? We're all nice people.

      - - - | - - -

      There was a letter from Uncle Roger. I held it in my hand awhile, breaking into one of the cold sweats that had formed such an integral part of my temperature in recent days [...]

      - - - | - - -

      "Sally Jay," he said earnestly, "promise me, promise me you'll never try to kill yourself."

      "Oh I promise, I promise," I assured him, stretching lazily, feeling utterly euphoric. "The world is wide, wide, wide, and I am young, young, young, and we're all going to live forever!"

    I don't know that I agree with Teachout that this will be one of the books that survives to become Literature, but it is a fine book and chicklit lovers could do much worse.

    at most a month

059) Letters from a Nut by Ted. L. Nancy, finished June 21
    I've been wanting one of these for a decade so thanks to my brother Schmett for the great Christmas present. Some of these letters are impossibly funny.

    If you're not familiar with the Letters from a Nut books, Ted L. Nancy sends strange strange letters to companies or famous individuals and engages them in bizarre correspondance. For instance, writing Greyhound about traveling by bus dressed as a gigantic stick of butter. That sort of thing.

    Anyway, you probably don't need to buy your own copy, but next time you're in the Devil's Den, pick one up and read until you're laughing so hard they kick you out.

    Return next day.


    just under six months

058) The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling, finished June 21
    I'm only sad there were merely five. They felt like true old tales and I consider that high praise indeed.

    perhaps two weeks

057) Lowboy by John Wray, finished June 16
    I took this book home from the library because of this line from Kirkus Reviews on the back: "The opening pages recall Salinger's Holden Caulfied, but the denouement and haunting aftertaste may make the stunned reader whisper 'Dostoevsky.' Yes, it really is that good."

    Now there's no love between me and Holden, but the journey from Salinger to Dostoevsky was too intriguing not to take up.

    Final analysis? Great book. I loved it. I'm still not sure about the ambiguous ending --- Dostoevsky or not --- but overall, I give it to you highly recommended.

    (Note to New York writers who want to show off how well they know their city. Read this book. See how the city is a character in the book? See how Wray isn't just showing off how Newyorky he is? See how the reader cares where Lowboy is, and not just that the writer knows where Lowboy is? You should all take a lesson.)

    Lowboy is a schizophrenic kid escaped from the hospital so he can save the world. He is in the world and the world is in him and both are getting hotter and if he can just let the world out ---

    The book makes me feel like I understand shizophrenia in the way The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time helped me understand autism and Bound on Earth being bipolar. And I must say: schizophrenia is the worst.

    (Movie aside: too bad del Toro's so busy --- he would be perfect.)

    Anyway, good book. Pick it up.

    about a month

056) One silent sleepless night by Spencer W. Kimball, finished June 14
    President Kimball recounts a insomniac night filled with pain and memories in a New York hotel. Large type and copiously illustrated (watercolors by Sherry Thompson) and lots of whitespace = very short book indeed, even at only 63 pages. Although by no means a great book, it is an interesting book in terms of structure and concept.

    Anyone familiar with the Kimball Story probably knows how he thought his usefulness was over when he had his vocal cords removed. Watching him autobiographicize the past during his recovery offers an interesting perspective, complicated by the fact that the book was actually written almost twenty years after his silent sleepless night an four years after becoming president of the Church. Makes me wonder what his motivation was. I'll have to ask him someday.

    about seven months


the first five, 1-5
the second five, 6-10
the third five, 11-15
the fourth five, 16-20
the fifth five, 21-25
the sixth five, 26-30
the seventh five, 31-35
the eighth five, 36-40
the ninth five, 41-45
the tenth five, 46-50
the eleventh five, 51-55


  1. Oh! This is a very cool format for reviews. I keep a diary of all the books I've finished, year by year, but you've done me about a thousand better.

  2. .

    Depends on how you figure. I kept scanty records indeed before 2007.

  3. I gave my wife Beedle for her birthday, but she hasn't read it yet. I may have crack the cover myself...

    And I read One Sleepless Night years ago, but haven't picked it up since. All I can remember about it is the nifty format, which seems to have made more of an impression on me than the story itself (though I do remember the narrative gist and think Pres. Kimball was a talented essayist).

  4. .

    I really wanted to write an AMV post about Sleepless Night, but couldn't figure out how to make it work. A function of taking too many months to read it.

  5. I was going to write an AMV post about Sleepless Night a few years ago and then didn't for some reason. Maybe the same one.

    I do remember writing something about it though.

  6. .

    Maybe you and Tyler and I can all write meandering 150 thoughts and combine them and pretend they are a really awesome post.

  7. Ooo, a collaborative AMV venture? Count me in...

    Maybe the fragmentariness would come out kind of like the book, except without the cool watercolors.

  8. Letters from a Nut is an all time favorite. And there are several sequels too. So hilarious. Did you see that Seinfeld outed the true author of the books recently on Larry King?

  9. .

    And this is one of those rare cases where the rumors proved true.

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