Books read: a forensic investigation


Socrates said that if literacy caught on, people's memories would atrophy as they exported the stress of remembering from their minds to their records.

Alas, alas.

Due to some technical snafu at least 50% Blogger's fault, my most recent list of books read was erased.

This causes me great pain. Why I have this impulse (since 2007) to track all books I read, who can say, but I do. And the completeness of this list gives me pleasure. And this hole is apt to haunt me for some time.

I'm not sure exactly how many books were lost, but it was at least three and possibly as many as four. I'm also not sure which order they went in. And the disaster left me so unhappy, I didn't write about my next book even though I had much to say about it. But now I've read another so it's time to buck up and wrap this report, hole(s) notwithstanding.

the books are:

[one or two missing books here]

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett

[zero or one missing books here]

Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim

The Burning Book: A Jewish-Mormon Memoir by Jason Olson and James Goldberg

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

It's hard to know what to do with the numbering. Even if I recall more books I read, as time passes, I'll be less and less certain which order they went in or if I have remembered them all.

So I'm going to assume there are only two books still missing from this list (though it could be more) and that they were both before Ann Patchett (though that could be wrong)

So I guess we're gonna say

073) These Precious Days by Ann Patchett, finished c. June 17
074) Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, finished c. June 19
075) The Burning Book: A Jewish-Mormon Memoir by Jason Olson and James Goldberg, finished c. June 21
076) The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, finished June 23

And now I'll ramble a bit about them.

I talked about the Ann Patchett book before, when I thought I wasn't going to finish it. But as you can see, I kept going. And there were a handful of topics I really wanted to share with you, but dang it, ten days have passed. Gendry-Kim does amazing things with panel borders in her tale of comfort women in the form of a memoir of a woman she interviewed. This story is much worse than this story and, alas, much more believable than this version. But I suppose telling your own story will always some advantage. Certainly Olson's tale of being deeply Jewish and deeply Mormon needed to be told. But I'm not opposed to fictional explorations of the same showing up later. Erdrich's (excellent) book is based closely on her grandfather's story. But what I loved most was its unapologetic and unglossed look at Indian life. Stories that really let us into another world—that's one of the greatest services literature can perform. Whether you're an midcentury Chippewa, a contemporary Jewish Mormon / Mormon Jew, an aging comfort woman, or a middle-aged American writer.

I should mention that some important (though periphery) characters in The Night Watchman are LDS: the bad guy, an actual senator from Utah whose dialogue is lifted direct from the Congressional Record, and two missionaries. None of these characters are deeply developed and all of them strike me as suboptimal representatives of the faith, but I think Erdrich's depictions are fair. I suspect you could find contemporary Saints with some of the same dumb ideas; you don't have to travel to the '50s to find this sort of nonsense.

If you would like to talk more about these books, please write back! All my thoughts are still in my head somewhere, just waiting for a friendly partner to chat them out of me. And I would, I hope you know, love to hear your thoughts as well. But maybe not while standing quite as closely together as these two are. Lemme hear what you think about Louise Erdrich before you get this close.

link to the previous books post (here on thutopia)
containing the proper backlinks and everything

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