Syndactyl Salutations

Thoughts on writing, knitting, and the world around me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Five Years and Four Books

Five Years

Yesterday Ebbie and I marked five years together. I am so lucky to have him, he's been so supportive of my ups and downs (and there have been plenty) over the past few years. We had a nice evening together, and I look forward to many more.

Four Books

In the past couple of weeks, I finished four library books (I read a lot, but I try to use the library rather than buying every book that I think looks the least bit interesting). I want to try to keep track of the reading I'm doing, so I might as well do it here.

1. Chasing Matisse, James Morgan -- I didn't know much about Matisse before I read this, and even though I know more now, that wasn't the pointof the book for me. This book, and the adventure behind it, spoke to the part of me that lead me to Kripalu and isn't looking for a stable full-time job yet.

I admire Morgan and his wife for their decision to give up some of the stability and go for the dream. I aspire to that sort of thing, and I aspire to the writing he does in this book. His descriptions of the places they saw and the way they tied into Matisse's life, as well as his accounts of what was happening to them on the journey made for a compelling read. I will be looking for more of his work, and may look into buying this at some point, because I could easily read it again.

2. Longitude, Dava Sobel -- Ebbie's stepmother got The Planets (same author) for his sister for Christmas. As soon as I read the cover and flap blurbs, I knew she was an author I would enjoy. The next time I went to the library, Longitude practically leapt off the shelf at me.

Once again, I didn't know much about the subject of longitude before I opened the book. I know more now, and I found the subject fascinating. Most of the book follows the career of John Harrison, a self-taught clock maker in eighteenth-century England as he tries to build a clock able to keep time accurately on a sailing ship. The story is engaging and the characters become characters, rather than flat historical figures. This is a book from which I kept reading passages aloud to Ebbie, just because it seemed necessary to share the information. I may also buy this, and I'll definitely look for more.

3. Circle of Grace, Penelope Stokes -- The reason I picked this one up is because the blurb mentioned a circle journal. It's an idea I like, but haven't been able to make work, for whatever reason.

I didn't end up being crazy about the book, even though I finished it (I rarely don't finish reading a book), and found myself getting weepy at times (I can get weepy at commercials if my mood is right). The story is about four college friends who keep in touch via a circle journal on and off for thirty years, but also end up keeping secrets from one another. The title character realizes she is ill and contacts the rest of them for a reunion, at which all of the things that didn't make it into the circle journal are exposed. For some reason, I kept looking at sentence structure and wording, rather than really getting into the story. It was a nice, quick read, but not one I want to read again and I don't know if I'll read anything else by her.

4. Making It Up, Penelope Lively -- I loved the idea behind the book, especially as an erstwhile fiction writer. She plays with the question of whether or not all writing is, on some level, autobiographical.

Each section of the book begins with a vignette from the author's life, and a "what if" concerning it. The stories following the vignettes are not told from the point of view of whichever character would have been the author's alternate self, but rather from the point of view of someone on the periphery of her life, or someone who only existed in the alternate world of the "what if" itself. Each story was bookended by the author's voice again, usually explaining the real circumstances of her life at the time.

I enjoyed the conceit, and I enjoyed the stories and the writing, but the authorial voice at the beginning and end, the end in particularly, felt jarring and too intrusive. I may find more of her work, but this is one I'll probably only read the one time.

And there you have it, my quickie book reviews. I'll probably do it again from time to time, so consider yourselves warned.

Enjoy your days.


At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Bookish Wendy said...

Oh, I've been eyeing Longitude. So glad to hear that I should read it!


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