It’s Tuesday – Where Am I?

Fodor recently ran an article about Disney World in the time of the pandemic, with visitors needing to be more organized and more patient. Disney is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, and I remember my advance planning years ago with two children anxious to see it all. I had maps, diagrams, routes from one park to another, places to eat with reservations at the Disney version of fast food places. Back then, no Fast Pass existed, but staying at a hotel in the park gave the customer an extra early hour to start queuing up. Each hour brought more frantic hurry to get through and get it done. Later in life I joined European tours with each day preplanned, hour by hour, popular tourist spots carefully timed, each hour strategically organized to see the most, the best, the fastest.

I don’t remember not having a schedule, and not being in a hurry, so now I dream of going back alone – strolling quiet streets in Provence, wandering the outdoor market to pick up some herbs, stopping to pick up a baguette and some cheese, or wandering down the steps of Portofino to my favorite small bakery for a breakfast of almond cake and an espresso before checking on the ferry to Capri with no worry about germs spreading and attacking me as I breathe in the air. Will it ever happen?

Capri

Tours seem too full of people to be safe; I often caught a cold on a packed bus traveling from one attraction to the next. Maybe with a mask, disinfectant, cleaning spray, and whatever other mitigation efforts the tour companies are hawking these days, it would be safer, but I would be no less anxious. Maybe this will all pass and be remembered only as a nightmare, someday. It’s hard to know how many years we can endure the strain – has it been almost two years now? Patience has never been my forte.

In the meantime, I dream about walking isolated streets and beaches, and try to read about whatever will help me escape, but it isn’t easy. Lately, some of the books I’ve finished include:

Bewilderment by Richard Powers – good writing never goes out of style, and the Pulitzer Prize winner returns with a heavy tome examining Artificial Intelligence, grief, and our brains. The hope of new worlds and a better environment seem timely. Not for everyone, but I’m glad I read it. If you want more, try the review by NPR’s Heller McAlpin – https://www.npr.org/2021/09/21/1039090479/richard-powers-bewilderment-review

The Stranger Behind You by Carol Goodman – a Gothic mystery thriller from one of my favorite authors

Apples Never Fall by Lianne Moriarty – this author never disappoints with her unexpected plot twists and surprise ending. The story reminded me of Maria Semple’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” but with a touch of “Gone Girl.” The ending seems to be a little too long after the big reveal but my friend tells me it has already been optioned for a TV movie/series.

I am almost finished reading the new Anthony Doerr book – Cloud Cuckoo Land and it is a faster read than I expected. Actually, cloud cuckoo land sounds like a good place to be right now.

What are you reading to escape?

Amor Towles Has A New Book and Recommendations for Reading

One of my favorite authors, Amor Towles, has a new book coming in October – The Lincoln Highway. Today in the New York Times Book Review, editors have included him in their ask an author section. He responds to questions with a list of books he has read, books he recommends, and more – a wealth of good ideas for individuals as well as book groups.

Towles meets with a small group of friends monthly to discuss a novel:

“One spring we read Henry James’s “The Portrait of a Lady,” Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary,” George Eliot’s “Middlemarch” and Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” a project we referred to as “19th-Century Wives Under Pressure.” Often, we’ll read five or six works by a single writer chronologically. We’re about to launch into a survey of the Australian Nobel laureate, Patrick White. So, his “The Tree of Man” is at the top of my pile.”

He remembers a list of authors from his college days, you might want to discover:

“The list included an array of inventive writers and stylists, most of whom I had never heard of, including Donald Barthelme, Italo Calvino, Evan S. Connell, Julio Cortázar, Jean Genet, Elizabeth Hardwick, Knut Hamsun, Milan Kundera, Grace Paley and Alain Robbe-Grillet. With the list fraying in my pocket, I began tracking down these novels whenever I was in a used bookstore.”

And for guilty pleasures, he includes:

“…the Lew Archer novels by Ross Macdonald, the George Smiley novels by John le Carré and the Parker novels by Richard Stark, {and} the Bosch books Michael Connelly}.”

In preparations for his new novel, The Lincoln Highway, Amor Towles mentions a few books he read:

“My new novel, “The Lincoln Highway,” takes place over 10 days in June of 1954, so in anticipation I read a number of American works from the mid-50s including James Baldwin’s “Go Tell It on the Mountain” (1953); Raymond Chandler’s “The Long Goodbye” (1953); Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” (1955); and Sloan Wilson’s “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” (1955)… In aggregate they provide a snapshot of America’s socioeconomic, regional and racial diversity.”

Lots of good ideas for reading, and if you have not yet read Rules of Civility and Gentleman from Moscow, now is the time.

Related Reviews:

https://thenochargebookbunch.com/2016/10/06/a-gentleman-in-moscow/

https://thenochargebookbunch.com/2011/10/09/rules-of-civility/

Books Coming Soon

It’s been hard to focus on anything but survival lately. Even Krueger’s new book “Lightning Strike” has been wallowing at page 14, waiting for me to get back to it. But I need to shape up; I’ve preordered 5 books to be delivered soon and they all promise to be good reads:

  • “Cloud Cuckoo Land” by Anthony Doer
  • “The Book of Form and Emptyness” by Ruth Ozeki
  • “The Lincoln Highway” by Amor Towles
  • “Apples Never Fall” by Lianne Moriarty
  • “Small Pleasures” by Clare Chambers

My Thrilling List

Book titles catch my eye but I really don’t have a list. I write them on little slips of paper, the backs of envelopes, at the bottom of the plumber’s list, on the paint swatches – all in a pile I keep planning to organize.

All night thrillers seem to attract me the most lately, vicariously providing satisfaction from feeling powerless over the verbal abuse by the plumber’s secretary, along with false promises and purposeful delays on a seemingly endless renovation.

A few books lately have offered some respite:

Megan Miranda’s Such A Quiet Place had the same twisting switchbacks as her earlier book The Last House Guest. This story has the neighborhood in a small college town disrupted by murder and the return of the murderer, when she is released early from prison. Speculation, gossip, and manipulative friendships twist the plot, and the idea of being a good neighbor gets a makeover.

The Turnout by Megan Abbott sets the scene in a small, old ballet studio needing a renovation after a fire caused by a space heater. With my recent experiences with a renovation, I could relate to some of the lines: “He has to finish that renovation sometime” and “Aren’t there some states, she’d heard Detective Mendoza joke to Walters, where murdering your contractor is a misdemeanor?” A creepy thriller with a twisting plot. You may never think of the Nutcracker the same again.

Finally, The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry starts as a routine police procedural but quickly morphs into a strange tale of a serial killer with touches of sci-fi. This page turner follows a journalist investigating the murder of a young attractive real estate agent. Her chase leads her through time and space into parallel universes as the reporter discovers she’s not the only one who’s in pursuit of the murderer, who keeps killing the same woman in different versions of her life. The time travel keeps the pace fast, and the ending may have you wondering which version of the good life you are living. Lots of fun.

What books offer you an escape?

The Booker Longlist

The Booker longlist is one I have anticipated, but in the past few years it has not inspired me to read from it. The prestigious literary award is given each year to the best novel written in English and published in Britain or Ireland. This year, however, when I really need a few good books, the list holds promise for me.

I’ve already read Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun, and I have Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle on my library list. I will add Frances Spufford’s Light Perpetual where the author imagines how the lives of five children killed by a German V-2 rocket in 1944 might have turned out had they survived the bombing.

Richard Powers, author of the Overstory, has a powerful new story in Bewilderment, to be published in the United States in September. “The novel is set in the near future amid Earth’s slow deterioration. It follows a widowed father of a most unusual and troubled nine-year-old boy, as he turns to an experimental neurological treatment in order to save his son.”

Perhaps you’ll find something too. The full longlist includes:

  • Anuk Arudpragasam’s A Passage North
  • Rachel Cusk’s Second Place
  • Damon Galgut’s The Promise
  • Nathan Harris’ The Sweetness of Water
  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun
  • Karen Jennings’ An Island
  • Mary Lawson’s A Town Called Solace
  • Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This
  • Nadifa Mohamed’s The Fortune Men
  • Richard Powers’ Bewilderment
  • Sunjeev Sahota’s China Room
  • Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle
  • Francis Spufford’s Light Perpetual