This installment: Enright’s latest (f); Rushdie’s latest (f); light, snarky essays (nf); nasty doings on the education front (f); and architecture, Alzheimer’s, and race (f).
Editor’s Note: Since our print collection is currently unavailable, the titles and links below all direct you to our digital ebook and eAudiobook collections, either in Overdrive or Hoopla*. You can learn more about using those services on our blog, and contact us if you need assistance.
*Restrictions to using Hoopla apply based on your home address.
Actress by Anne Enright
A very Irish book, with characteristic phrases dropping us right into authentic language. Narrated by the daughter of said actress who tells us the whole rise to fall story of this Katherine O’Dell who made it big, then plunged into increasing madness. The irony: she was billed as utterly Irish but had actually grown up partly in England, daughter of itinerant players. Her daughter, a “good girl” and now a writer, never finds the name of her own father. Can an actress have a true identity or is she always fitting herself to the roles she’s assigned, both on and off the stage and screen? Atmospheric, thought-provoking.
Quichotte by Salman Rushdie
Rushdie’s done it again: created a wild ride that mixes mythology and Big Ideas with very contemporary happenings. Our hero (or anti hero) sets out to pursue, then woo, the unlikely object of his transcontinental quest: Salma. She’s up with Oprah in fame and fortune but has a little oxy habit and that’s what ultimately joins them when he delivers the goods, courtesy of his former employer. Along the way he acquires a son, Sancho, a manifestation of wishful thinking, and it’s a steep learning curve for this new being. Rushdie can be very funny and dazzled this reader with very specific compendia of life as we know it, amazingly comprehensive and instantly recognizable. By the way, it’s definitely the end time in this novel and that perspective felt very apt all the way through.
Yokohama Threeway and Other Small Shames by Beth Liseck
I first met Beth as the host of Porchlight, a storytelling series in SF, but she also shows up on the page and here you can sample her wiggy, self-deprecating humor in these short essays. She’s been around the block: a naughty child, a rebellious teenager (what else…?), a series of odd jobs and odd encounters as the title suggests. Some of the slam poetry she shared back then in North Beach is included. A gamut of classic and original humiliations, like the evening at a swanky event with the back of her dress rucked up into her pantyhose. Charming stuff, and a light touch in these heavy times.
Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West
Isobel’s father was a white-collar crook and she’s determined to redress the balance by trying to teach privileged high school students about empathy and social justice. Julia, a helicopter parent extraordinaire, takes exception to some of Isobel’s “radical” messages and attempts to get Isobel fired. Social media plays a big part, and a new, ambitious teacher also uses it surreptitiously to ensure her position will survive budget cuts. As a long-time teacher, West knows this territory intimately. The story was kind of obvious to me but I loved it anyway, especially with its message that sometimes truth will out.
The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden
Gregory was a preeminent Black architect in DC until Alzheimer’s brought him down. His wife, Diana, a judge, is very loyal but suffers greatly as Gregory exhibits all those dreadful symptoms. She finally puts him in assisted living to save herself, a huge but necessary wrench. We also get to know his business partner, Mercer, and his grown children – Lauren is a chip off the old block who can take up his work. Son Sean has felt estranged; he’s a contractor who struggles with dyslexia. The family hurts, grows, accommodates to the painful reality and ultimately demonstrates the title’s promise. Very moving.
See you next week.