Fourth Five Books


Man alive but am I finishing few books this year. At this rate, I'll be lucky to hit sixty --- half of last year's total. What is wrong with me, I wonder?

Travels in the Scriptorium: A Novel 020) Travels in the Scriptorium: A Novel by Paul Auster, finished May 5
    A brief personal aside on restraint: I almost bought this book new from Cody's books (I rarely buy new hardbacks) but I restrained myself. Saturday I found the paperback at the dollar store. Good for me. Bad for Auster. Bad for Cody's, RIP.

    Anyway, this is a short 118-page book. Starts off with classic amnesia set-up Man Wakes In White Room With No Knowledge of Who He Is.

    If you've never read any Auster before, your enjoyment of this book will be limited.

    If you've read but a little Auster before and love him (like me) you might be the best audience for this book. It wasn't until after page 100 that I realized what was going on. I stopped walking and pulled the book from my face, shocked.

    But I shouldn't have been. Classic Auster move. Which is why I think having read all his books six times might mean you can't enjoy is much. You probably realize what's happening in the first half-dozen pages. But, in that sense, this is like a love letter to his fans.

    I don't want to say more. I don't want to ruin anything. And one wrong word could do damage.

    I will say I'm sad Joseph Heller didn't get to read this. It's a perfect companion books to his POTAAOM. He would have loved to hate it. But alas, he is dead.

    five days

019) Suburban Folklore by Steven Walters, finished May 4

The Lonely Polygamist: A Novel 018) The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, finished April 30
    So, first of all, I love it and recommend it. It's better than The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint: A Novel, if you're interested in comparing Udall's books against each other. It's long --- almost 600 pages, but it's a fast read. A hundred pages can slip by in no time. Blah blah blah.

    Now, I'm also writing a response for Motley Vision that'll probably go up Monday (the book's officially out Tuesday, but plenty of stores have already put it out on the shelves) (note that I am writing this on Friday, April 30) and a longer review for Irreantum's fall issue. So what I'm doing here, now, is just throwing some ideas down in more of a brainstormy fashion.

    First --- and this is meaningless unless you hear it from actual polygamists --- but I feel like I really understand something now about that lifestyle and some of the realities of what it must be like to live The Principle.

    I once worked with the daughter of a polygamist. She went about being a "plyg" much like I've gone about being "Mormon": unapologetically. And I always appreciated that.

    (Incidentally though, she desperately wanted to be on Survivor, yet her background both increased her odds of being selected but also eliminated her from trying. Her family lived a quiet life in two adjacent Salt Lake suburban homes connected through their back yards and drawing attention is the last thing polygamists need.)

    Golden has four wives and 27 living children as the story opens. How can such a man be lonely?

    Well, let's take a step back and admit he can never be alone. With only three children I feel like I hear nothing but Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! as they angle for their share of my attention. With thirty people who want a piece of you? Forget it.

    And if that's the case, another corollary is that no one child (or wife) can ever get enough of you to be satisfied either. You are a single sheet of paper for twenty essayists. After you have been shared, there is nothing left for anyone.

    This is Golden's life.

    But what I am doing now is telling you something. Udall instead takes us into his life. He provides us with three point-of-views --- the husband's, a wife's, a child's --- and through them we run the gamut of emotions.

    This family is nearing crisis and the story takes us through disaster to near-disaster to disaster, finally providing them with catharsis, if not clear solutions.

    I can see why this book is being buzzed about as a potential bestseller. I hope it is. And I hope the polygamists feel they were treated fairly. Granted, they're unlikely to want people thinking they behave quite like this family, but I hope they feel they were treated fairly. Because the feeling I'm left with is a greater love and respect for their ostracized culture.

    Plus, it can't hurt that we got a bit of sex and violence thrown in, am I right?

    about a month

017) Gracie: A Love Story by George Burns by George Burns, finished April 20
    My friend Scott in middle school had this book at the top of his closet. I don't know why. But I was always curious about it. The book's title was the first time I had ever heard of Gracie Allen who, within a couple years, I would be a big fan of. Burns and Allen is still, in my estimation, one of tv's greatest sitcoms. And given that it was also one of the first, that's a remarkable achievement.

    And the radio show, if anything, was better.

    Now fastforward twenty years and I pick up my own copy at a library sale. I don't open it for over a year, but now I have and boyohboy but was it a delightful read. Funny on every page, warm and loving, charmingly oldschool, with neartears on the final page.

    Whether Burns and Allen are an important part of your personal history or not, this book will delight you. Now I'm off to find a copy of Damsel in Distress and a few more of their 299 tv shows and a how many hundred of their radio shows still exist.


    under a month

016) The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, finished April 15
    The first nine chapters were dull as unpolished spit. Then it got interesting. Then it got compelling. Then it got moving. And Alex Haley's hundred-page epilogue is can't-miss reading as well (although the final pages of post-death stuff gets repetitious). Not to mention the intro, forward and other extras (though all of them will mean more if you read the bookproper first).

    No wonder Malcolm X is a controversial figure! He does not try to change his past or cover his errors or ape divinity. He's more human than we generally want anyone to be --- let along a might-be hero. And the evolution of his thinking is admirable and startling. And following that evolution one step at a time, without any heavyhanded foreshadowing of future developments, is quite the ride. In many ways, this is the history of a great mind --- and I've never read its like.

    This book is guaranteed to make anyone openminded ask themselves a lotta lotta questions. So if you think you can handle that kind of self-analysis, I highly recommend you pick up a copy and get started.

    under a month

Previously in 2010 . . . . :

First FiveSecond FiveThird Five


  1. I'm guessing like me you are writing more this year than last-that's why I'm not getting even half as much reading done.

    I read Malcolm X a number of years ago-much more interesting to me than MLK.

  2. I'm also guessing that your reading rate has a little something to do with the fact that you now have a mobile third child.

  3. And first and second, come to think of it...

  4. .

    There could be a correlation, yes.