The following lizard photo is for decorative purposes only. He hasn't objected, but he's totally unaware that his image is being used for blog adornment. The photographer gratefully acknowledges his kindness and patience in posing at great length.
We now return to normality.
Even though it was a holiday weekend that involved a lot of driving kiddo to work and back, entertaining the eldest (sort of) and having a nuisance husband around to make messes (he excels; it's not just a habit, it's a skill set), I got some great reading done. Unfortunately, it's at least in part because I'm so used to a quiet house that sometimes I become Hermit Bookfool and disappear with a stack of books and a pile of pillows while the family hangs out. This weekend, the husband and eldest watched kamikaze insects divebomb into a hot citronella candle while they drank wine on the porch. I tried being sociable but that's just disturbing, watching insects fly to their doom. I had to run away and read. The lightning bugs were enchanting, twinkling all over the back yard, but the kamikaze bugs were just too much.
Anyway, I got a lot of reading done, so here's a run-down.
1. Tarnished Beauty by Cecelia Samartin is the story of Jamilet, a girl born in Mexico with a huge, ugly birthmark and an unfortunate paternal history. The birthmark forces her to dress with extreme modesty and endure vicious taunts. I will write a full review of this one, soon, but I was so completely captivated by this story that I could barely stand to put it down for a breather. I read, I ate, I read, I sipped drinks, I read and read and read. Jamilet and the man she eventually befriends are wonderful characters. Particularly of note is the way the author blends enchanting paragraphs full of beautiful word pictures with honest dialogue. So, one second you may be reading about the beauty of the sunset and the next minute someone is asking the character who is rhapsodizing why the heck doesn't she just get herself a beer instead of staring off into the sunset (that's not an actual part of the book -- just a rough example). That clash of beauty and common language makes it incredibly believable and even a little bit magical.
2. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert -- I finished the "Eat" section, the portion in which author Gilbert describes her 4-month stay in Italy, during which she worked on improving her conversational Italian, healing from her nasty divorce, traveling around Italy to learn its history and savor its beauty and (most important) eating very, very good Italian food. I really enjoyed that part of the book, so I decided I needed to take a short breather before moving on to India. I've begun the India or "Pray" section, as of last night, and I'm enjoying it. I'm also glad I took a break between sections because the tone is a bit different and I think it might have been a bit jarring to move right from Italy to India. Such a contrast!
3. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson - I read a few stories from this collection, earlier in the week, and decided to read more. This book is an anthology of Shirley Jackson's short stories and most have left me feeling like, "Uh, so what was the point of that?" until this last batch. I love her writing but think it all boils down to endings -- love the voice, the mystery, the suspense . . . often hate the denouement. There's one story, for example, about a girl who claims the world is going to end because an asteroid is going to hit Earth. You don't know whether she's imagining things or predicting the future but either way it's kind of creepy and the suspense builds until the end, which is just a total letdown.
This weekend, I read "Trial by Combat", "The Villager", "My Life with R. H. Macy", "The Witch", "The Renegade", and "After You, My Dear Alphonse". And, I came away from this particular bunch of stories feeling entirely different. There was a depth I thought many of her other stories have lacked. Was it my mood? An ability to relate to some of the characters or situations? I don't know. But, I got so much from those stories that I'm thinking about doing a separate post on them. We'll see. First, what else did the crazy girl read?
Ah, yes, a weekend just isn't right without Alfred Bester. This week, I read "5,271,009" from Virtual Unrealities. It was one of the most flat-out bizarre, mind-boggling stories I've ever read. And, yet, at the same time I have an idea what it was about (but I'm not certain) and it made me laugh several times. There's a character whose mode of speech is so ridiculous that I can't possibly repeat it. I'll just have to post an excerpt:
"It's extremely odd, Mr. Aquila." Derelict seemed to struggle with himself. "Your coming in like this. A Halsyon monochrome arrived not five minutes ago."
"You see? Tempo ist Richtung. Well?"
"I'd rather not show it to you. For personal reasons, Mr. Aquila."
"HimmelHerrGott! Pourquoi? She's bespoke?"
"N-no, sir. Not for my personal reasons. For your personal reasons."
"Oh? God damn. Explain myself to me."
Well, that made me chuckle.
Last, but not least, I read a few nonfiction entries from Best Little Stories from World War II by C. Brian Kelly. There's a pattern to the way he tells the stories and it's a wee bit annoying -- the way he dangles information about some mystery person and you find yourself thinking, "Who is it? Who is it?" But, the story about the young WWI soldier who served as a messenger and repeatedly escaped harm while running messages from place to place -- a job that only about 50% survived -- was fascinating enough to really buck up my interest. That young soldier who repeatedly escaped harm, was injured but not badly, was temporarily blinded by chlorine gas but got his sight back and lived on was Hitler. Oh. I didn't know all that. Yeah, that worked. I'll continue working on this one. Come to think of it, that format is beginning to grow on me.
Had to return High Cotton to the library, today, but they had a cart full of ARCs sitting out with a "FREE" sign, again. Oh, goodness gracious. I cannot resist those free ARCs. I may have to post a list separately, but I began to read one that appealed to me because it will nicely fit the Southern Reading Challenge. The author is from Shreveport, Louisiana. It's a memoir and I just adore the way she tells stories of her childhood. Oops, sorry for the accidental posting at this point. The book is On Our Way to Beautiful by Yolanda Young. More on that, later.
Hope everyone had a terrific weekend!