"While we are reading, we are all Don Quixote." ~ Mason Cooley

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I recently took some time to list the books I've read this year.  Partly because I like the sense of accomplishment from seeing all the titles and partly because, given the diversity of style and genre I've been reading, I was curious to see the range on paper.

I'm not sure I captured them all, but I managed to outline the bigger picture.  Could see shapes and color, and a few interesting details.  Books and authors I'd most likely never have read were it not for the quality of the two book clubs I discovered. Others recommended by my brother.  A couple books that are now among my all-time favorites.

Overall, though, pretty heavy-hitters.  Award winners, history, interesting (if not always pleasant) character studies.  Several rather dark and broody, excellently written, but definitely dark and broody.

Hence, my SOS!  I'm seeking something lighter.  Not exactly cotton candy, say, a good sundae.  Think Janet Evanovich or Alexander McCall Smith.  Any recommendations out there??

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Sense of an Ending

Let me start by stating this is not a review of this novella by the acclaimed British author, Julian Barnes.  There are excellent reviews available on-line by critics whose experience and skill are far superior to mine. This is a flat out recommendation, an endorsement. 

I'm an aging bibliophile who could be accused of having indiscriminate tastes - I do admittedly love a good mystery and will read People magazine at the dentist's office.  But I also know the difference between the ordinary and the sublime when it comes to good writing and am always deeply appreciative when I come across the latter.  And Julian Barnes is a wondrous writer, one of the few who inspires me to read everything he's written. (To date, I've read a few essays, an autobiographical work and this amazing novella, but have already downloaded two of his other novels on my Kindle.)  A writer whose clarity and insights repeatedly make me pause and reread a sentence or paragraph, relishing every moment and green with envy.

I've read The Sense of an Ending, the 20ll Booker Award winner, twice now. The first time on my brother's recommendation, the second for my book club (on my recommendation).  It is not a novel for readers who seek a good "yarn" or who have to like the characters.  Or as a fellow club member clarified for me, who want characters they enjoy spending time with. And I'm not sure readers under the age of 40 will identify with the themes of this novel - one being how we can reinvent our history to think better of ourselves - but if you value eloquence and dry humor, if you appreciate writing that makes you think long after you have finished reading, that assumes you are intelligent, if you are in a reflective frame of mind, read this book. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Right Time, The Right Place

With all the books I want to read, and those I am committed to read, I've unexpectedly picked up The Sound of Paper, by Julia Cameron, a book I started and failed to complete in the past. Picked it up recently, and this time, can't put it down for very long. I'm not just reading it, but diligently, daily in fact, working with the written exercises that accompany each of her essays. I guess it's just the right time, the right place this go round.

I've had this experience before - books that I start and put down, unable to sustain interest or effort, or to find value in. Some I've given away. Others shelved or boxed, sometimes even moved across country. To be opened again, sometimes years later, enjoyed, even cherished. Meeting a new need or satisfying a new interest.

I've also had the experience of a book, usually in a bookstore, beckoning me the way chocolate truffles call out whenever I pass Mrs. See's. A clever title, a fascinating cover, any book designated a Booker Award winner - I can spot them across a crowded room.

So, lured by the title as well as its gentle cover, I was prepared to become absorbed in The Sound of Paper.  I also had enjoyed Cameron's more popular The Artist's Way and was looking forward to stretching my creative wings. But Paper has several short essays, thus, many more exercises, and I soon felt bogged down, unwilling or unable to maintain momentum, too busy with other demands to give it the attention it deserved. Whatever -packed it away and forgot about it. For over five years.

Today, I'm retired, learning to draw, exploring different writing venues, intrigued by the creative process - no wonder it is the right time and the right place. Thank heaven I didn't give it away.