051) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, finished July 18
Similar to We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, I suspect my experience was improved by knowing nothing before opening the first page. This was made easier by the edition I own (linked) which gives nothing away outside the novel's first sentence.maybe three weeks
That said, like We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, this is a moving and beautiful book that I've no doubt would hold up to multiple readings. And, thus, knowing about the story before you dig in won't prevent you from having a marvelous experience. It will just take away the one specific experience of having it unfold into your ignorance, which is like a luminescent flowing blooming in darkness.
Anyway, the rest of this, in small text, is spoilery. The only nonspoilery comment I have left is this: a couple times Patchett didn't use the subjunctive and it was jarring. Her writing is so beautiful and I don't understand the choice. But that's the biggest negative I have.
Art overcomes violence, but only if you're listening.
Although time is stretched out, Aristotle's views on place are respected.
The epilogue is a bit haunting because it makes sense and is right yet is utterly wrong.
Lady Steed and I read this book simultaneously, but she missed (or forgot) the early first-chapter telling of how it would end. Her experience, thus, was quite different from mine.
This novel shows that we are all the same but our world will always keep us apart. And that's our tragedy.
052) Hostage by Guy Delisle, finished July 21
three or four days
Christophe, the hostage, has to work to keep his sanity, and he makes some good decisions in that regard. I don't know how I would do in that respect---no one does, of course, not until it happens. We watch him live alone with his mind and minimal human contact. Unless you followed the story closely in 1997, you're not apt to know what'll happen next. And, of course, neither does Christophe. We at least know he will live but how is a mystery.
And thus the pages fly by, as we're trapped in the corner of a room.
053) The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg, finished July 22
That's the prologue.
Now we are in this fallen world with a violent patriarchal religion. The entire book is, in some respect, simple satire of our world run by men. But its mix of over-the-top grotesquery and silliness makes the book feel less dangerous. But in fact, it's those two elements that make it so very dangerous.
The basic conceit is that of Scheherazade---women telling stories in order to save themselves. The copyright page gives credit to two of the stories as being based on folktales (I only recognized the source of one of these stories---and it wasn't either of those). At first the stories don't seem particularly connected, but as the nights go one, storytellers are found within storytellers and they all start to fit together into a larger tapestry of beauty. The finale is tragic and beautiful and hopeful and fitting and satisfying.
The art, in terms of character design and perspective, is frequently reminiscent of medieval tapestries and illuminated manuscripts, which is appropriate. Greenberg also has the interesting quirk of just smearing ink over her drawings. I don't know why it works, but it does work. The drawings and witty and correct and quite wonderful. Their simplicity of design and color make even the more horribly moments lovely and welcoming. Which is also appropriate as one of the book's messages is we can find our heroism in our tragedies. Tragedy, perhaps, is less something to fear, but a step towards a world we would wish to live in.
I have Greenberg's first book already on hold at the library.
054) Paper Girls, Vol 4 by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, finished July 24
The hits just keep coming! This is my favorite ongoing book. (Not that I'm so well read, or anything.)two days
055) Chocolate: The Consuming Passion by Sandra Boynton, finished July 25
(The 2015 version, not the 1982 version.)one day
You'll know Sandra Boynton as the author of children's book although you may, like me, have never read one until you were wellll beyond the intended audience. And it took a few bumpings into her to arrive at the conclusion that I liked her work.
This book is a much clearer view into what makes her wit work. A nonfiction ode to chocolate, it's full of facts, but unfearful to be funny. And not stand-up funny---no, she's much slier than that. Some dumb puns, sure, but the best jokes are buried and easy to overlook. Read the recipes carefully, for instance. She'll reward you for your care.
056) [Aelian's] On the Nature of Animals translated by Gregory McNamee, finished July 27
I found this through a review in The Believer and I got it from the library without intending to read the entire thing. But I did! It was delightful! Short bursts of facts (or "facts") about animals from an old Roman's best research. Sometimes it's dead wrong (lions most certainly do NOT respect their elders), but even then there is something beautiful about the outlook we humans had in our ignorance. It gives me hope.many weeks
And while I have a couple questions about bolding choices, overall, props to Anne Richmond Boston for her wonderful design of the book. It was a please to hold, to skim, to read, to have around. Well done, Anne!
057) Blue Yodel by Ansel Alkins, finished July 27
about three daysI picked the book up from the library on the strength of one poem that showed up in my Twitter feed (included at the bottom of this review). I'm a sucker for good Eden poetry and this one is excellent. I don't think she's Mormon, but it definitely scratched my Mormon itches.
The collection is short but quality. Like Claire Åkebrand's recent book, I was struck by the repetition of images. Here it's wolves and corpses and a lot of other dark stuff that stick out, but hey---it works. She takes some daring chances, digging into stuff like the historical violence of American race relations, and does well, I think. I'm curious what black critics have said.
Overall, a strong beginning. I hope we keep hearing from her.