This installment: an Irish Catholic Romeo and Juliet (f); time travel from ’83 into the future (f); will the world end on May 28th? (f); reality TV meets Cirque du Soleil (DVDs); a search for ultimate longevity (f); and Mizrahi’s memoir (nf).
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Well we don’t get to that “yes” until the very end of the book, and in the meantime there’s lots of misery. Star-crossed lovers who grow up next door, Kate and Peter. Peter’s mother is crazy and in a fateful night, tragedy strikes. (Their fathers are both policemen which means firearms are around.) The couple get married against all odds but have a rough go of it. East coast setting. Irish Catholicism, guilt, and thwarted ambitions make for heavy going but I persevered because it’s a solid read and there’s redemption at last.
Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler
Kind of Sci Fi (though catalogued as fiction) with Nedda, an astronaut, on a one way trip to colonize Mars. And then Nedda as a child in Florida when the Challenger goes down in 1983. We cycle between these locations and I found it somewhat baffling until deep into the story. Nedda’s father had been building a kind of time machine and it went bonkers. Also the space flight is having problems. An odd but compelling tale.
Last Day by Domenica Ruta
Speaking of apocalyptic visions, this book creates a world-wide holiday on May 28th in which everyone waits for the world to end. When it doesn’t, they (mostly) rejoice, though some wish it were indeed all over. Observances vary by culture but most involve making amends and/or burning significant items. A wild cast of characters with surprising conjunctions play it out, including three astronauts. A combination of wit and doom make for a tasty reading treat, at least in my book.
Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within (DVD)
I’ve always been a sucker for this extravaganza, especially in the early days when it had a more hand-hewn, cabaret quality. Here’s a series that tracks the development of their first new show in three years, circa 2002. It’s reality TV which focuses on the agonies and ecstasies of eight or so performers as well as the complicated process of launching such a complex show, and I really got hooked. I loved having these intense, talented folks cavorting around on my small screen at home.
The History of Living Forever by Jake Wolff
In high school Conrad becomes his teacher Sammy’s lover. Sammy is zeroing in on the formula to eradicate death but then commits suicide. Conrad, who wants to save his dying father and his best friend’s sister, tries to discover the missing element in the formula. He connects with Sammy’s previous lover as well as a sinister batch of folk who are also pursuing the mystery. One ingredient is only available from Sammy’s ex, Catherine, an anthropologist. Another is Dor from Romania, a very potent cocaine variant. We also get a historical glimpse of this quest through the ages, from the 1300s on. This is a very strange book, mysterious and compelling.
I. M. A Memoir by Isaac Mizrahi
I’m not particularly drawn to the glamorous world of high fashion, but I do love clothes as an expression of who we are and I also love surprising, candid confessions which is what attracted me to this book. Growing up in a stultifying Syrian-Jewish milieu, Mizrahi’s childhood as a fat gay boy was miserable. Luckily he got to make puppet shows in the garage and then go on to a performing arts high school in NYC which set him (kind of) free. Missteps and triumphs, more self-torture yet some good times (though the specter of AIDS dampened them considerably) and then a leap out of fashion into theater and beyond. Plus he finally made a match—whew! Among his good friends are dancer Mark Morris and the Kalmans, heroes of mine. Juicy anecdotes, lots of self-reflection—fascinating. Wish there had been photos.
Back next week.