The one thing I regret is that I will never have time to read all the books I want to read.
--Francoise Sagan

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When Everything Changed by Gail Collins

A change of pace...a little non-fiction. Daniel and I have recently begun watching the show Mad Men, and I've been wondering how much of it is authentic and how much is exaggerated...especially in terms of the way women are treated. Then, I read an interesting article by Gail Collins in the latest O Magazine...and When Everything Changed was mentioned in the by-line. Intrigued, I snatched it up.

It is FASCINATING! For instance, I learned that in the year 1960, if a married couple applied for a loan, the woman's income was not factored in at all if she was under the age of 28. Between the ages of 28-40, half of it was counted; but it wasn't until a woman was 40 or over OR could prove that she was sterile that 100% of her income was taken into account. When one woman assured the loan officer that her husband had undergone a vasectomy, she was told that wasn't enough...after all, she could still get pregnant!!!

Many such tidbits have left me speechless. I never realized how drastically different the lives of my grandmothers (and even my mom, for that matter) really were.

Although the writing is a little clunky and disjointed in places, I'm hooked...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Final Thoughts on Solitude

I finished The Solitude of Prime Numbers yesterday afternoon, but I had to live with it for a while...let it settle a little bit...before I could post. Ultimately, it reminded me of a quote from Plato: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

Alice and Mattia are both extremely flawed, selfish, damaged characters, but Giordano made me care about them. I didn't always love the decisions they made or the way they treated the people in their lives (What Alice does to Sol is horrible!), but I loved them. I read wanting happiness and healing for them...wanting redemption...

Now...even after a day of reflection...I'm still not entirely sure what to make of the ending. In some ways, it was just right, but at the same time it was somehow...unsatisfying. It definitely didn't end as I hoped it would, but maybe this ending is better than the one I'd imagined...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano

Ahhhhhhhhhh...I can't put this one down!

It's about Alice and Mattia...Both suffered traumas when they were very young...and neither have healed. Mattia copes with the lingering pain by cutting himself; Alice is anorexic. The two meet in high school, and they are instantly drawn to each other...Giordano says (and I'm paraphrasing here) Mattia rejected the world, and Alice felt rejected by it...and they formed a defective and asymmetrical friendship...a clean and empty space where both could come back to breathe when the walls of their school became too close...

I can't wait to see where their relationship goes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

I was on spring break all week, and I had big reading plans...But then I got sort of bogged down in this one...Eggers himself warned me I might...

In the "Rules and Suggestions for Enjoyment of This Book" he writes, "#4...many of you might want to skip much of the middle, namely pages 239-351, which concern the lives of people in their early twenties, and those lives are very difficult to make interesting, even when they seemed interesting to those living them at the time." And "#5 Matter of fact, the first three or four chapters are all some of you might want to bother with. That gets you to page 123 or so, which is a nice length, a nice novella sort of length..."

It was really tedious at times. But it was clever and hilarious and poignant and fascinating at times, too.

Eggers' parents both died of cancer within just weeks of each other when he was in his early twenties. His younger brother, Topher, was only 7. As if losing both your parents so young isn't enough to deal with, Eggers also became a single parent to Toph instantly, over-night.

A.H.B.W.O.S.G. is the story of the first several years after their parents' death. The brothers picked up and moved from Chicago to San Fransico. Toph started a new school...played Little League Baseball. Eggers worked as a temp, auditioned for the REAL WORLD (which I remember watching),and eventually launched Might, an alternative magazine. They played a lot of Frisbee and hung out at the beach. Eggers went to Open Houses and Parent/Teacher conferences...always having to explain who he was and why he was there. They improvised...made it all up as they went along...and Eggers tells the story with a real sense of introspection and humor that I appreciated.

Ultimately, though, this was a heavy read...and I'm ready to move on...hoping to find another page-turner soon.