Sunday, May 31, 2009

Breathing Lessons

Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler

1989 Pulitzer Prize

Ira and Maggie Moran have been married 28 years. They have a son and daughter. Their son, Jesse, has a daughter of his own but his marriage didn't work out. Their daughter Daisy is set for college.

Maggie's best friend's husband has died and Ira and Maggie set out for the funeral. They have a fight on the way and Maggie demands to be let out of the car. She walks to a gas station/cafe but Ira soon comes back to get her. The trip home after the funeral is even more eventful. Maggie is determined to repair her sons marriage 6 years after the split. Ira is a calm and patient man, but Maggie is emotional and a bit scattered.

"Breathng Lessons" is a simple story about what it takes to live with someone. It's a lovely story.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Sound and the Fury

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

1949 Nobel

The Compton family are the descendents of a once noble family with a Civil War general and a governor in their family tree. But they are self-destructing. Father is content to rest on the laurels earned before him and Mother is self-absorbed and can't connect with her children. They are basically being raised by Dilsey, the black housekeeper.

The Sound and the Fury is written in four sections. The first section is through Benjy's eyes on his 33rd birthday. Benjy is severly retarded and cannot talk. While roaming around outside with one of Dilseys boys, Benjy's mind keeps jumping around as things provoke his memory. But Benjy has no concept of time so his memories could have happened yesterday as far as he knows. The second section narrated on the last day of Quenton's life. Quenton is unable to handle the loss of honor his sister has caused the family. The third section is narrated by Jason, the mean-spirited middle son. The final section is written in the third person.

It's an incredible book. The different sections are written in different voices and no two are alike. Benjy jumps all over time. Quenton gets more and more disjointed as his day goes one. And Jason just reeks of hate and greed. You have to pay attention with this book but it's well worth the effort.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dr. Zhivago

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

1958 Nobel Prize

Zhivago is a doctor and a port. He is married to his cousin Tonia. But occasionally he sees a woman named Laura. During the war he finally meets her and the two have an affair. She is working as a nurse while looking for her missing husband.

I can't say I much enjoyed this book. Unlike the movie, the book is mainly about the war and Zhivago's reaction to it and his disillusionment with people. And not being much up on Russian history (or geography) much of the story needed researching. Sometimes I like researching--but not this time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rendezvous with Rama

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clark

1974 Hugo Award
1973 Nebula Award


In the year 2131 a huge object is discovered near Jupiter. It is traveling unbelievably fast and is headed in Earth's direction. Survey photos determine it is not a natural spacecraft, but a manufactured vessel from outside our galaxy.Man has populated planets and moons around the solar system and manned spacecraft are always in flight. The logical choice to investigate the new arrival is a solar survey vessel named Endeavor.

I don't read much science fiction but I plan on reading the rest of this series. It was meant as a stand alone book but it also left questions about the mysterious Ramans. Maybe the next book will give some answers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Beowulf

Beowulf by Seamus Heanly

Costa/Whitbread winner 1999

Heaney has adapted the ancient tale of monsters and heroes for a new audience. It's the tale of a hero who comes to the aid of a king when a fierce monster begins killing King HroĊgars warriors. Beowulf crosses the sea to help kill Grendel.

Beowulf is a story of battles loyalty and honor. This new translation is a much easier read than the tale I had to read in high school. Heaney has used more modern language than any version I've seen.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The World According to Garp

The World According to Garp by John Irvng

T. S. Garp is the son of Jenny Fields. Jenny decided she wanted a child without a husband so she got herself pregnant by a brain damaged war veteran. So with this bizarre birth begins the bizarre life of T. S. Garp. That's his name Jenny never knew the fathers first name so she gave him the initial of his rank- Technical Sergeant. So T. S. was named, but everyone called him Garp.

The book follows Garp throughout his life. First at a school where his mother was nurse. Then at graduation the two take of to live in Europe, where Jenny writes her autobiography which everyone takes to be a feminine statement. Garp wants to be a writer too, but he can't quite capture the attention his mother gets.

This is a very funny book. The characters are completely off the wall. I thoroughly loved it.