Maria Semple’s Favorite Books – A List to Check Out

UnknownIn the New York Times By the Book  interview, Maria Semple, author of  Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” mentions Barbara Trapido’s “Brother of the More Famous Jack” –  out of print but miraculously in my library system.

Her other go-to writers are favorites of mine too (click on the highlighted titles for my reviews):

  • Lorrie Moore – A Gate at the Stairs 
  • Alice Munro – Dear Life 
  • Yasmina Reza – author of the play “Art.”  I remember seeing it, starring Alan Alda, years ago at Ford Theater; available in audio – might be worth listening; more recently she wrote “God of Carnage.”
  • Penelope Lively – How It All Began 
  • Edward St. Aubyn – The Patrick Melrose novels – 5 part series; start with “Never Mind.”
  • Michael Frayn – Skios  
  • Brady Udall – The Lonely Polygamist  

Books to Find:

  • The Keep by Jennifer Egan
  • Glaciers by Alexis Smith
  • Tenth of December by George Saunders
  • All That Is by James Salter

Office Girl is on that list, but after starting it on my Kindle, I decided it was one of those books “I was supposed to like, but didn’t,” and in Semple’s words – I bailed halfway through it.

Redux – How Soon They Forget

Ever started to read a book, and realize you’ve read it before? The ads from the book review section of the New York Times piqued my interest; this book came out last year, but is now in paperback.

After reviewing the book cover (still no clue about it) and then renewing A Gate at the Stairs twice from the library, hoping I’d remember – but didn’t –  I read it – again, it seems.

Like a scratched DVD that skips, the book started to trigger those cached impressions in my brain:  the twenty year old college student who takes the job as nanny to an adopted  baby yet to be born; her father, the gourmet potato farmer; her mother, who used mirrors to improve her flowers’ growth; the restaurant-owner/would-be mother, frazzled with overwork and angst in trying to find a birth mother who will give her a child – any child – eventually a bi-racial child.    The funny asides, the heart-breaking realities…

Life was unendurable, yet everywhere it was being endured.

But did I remember the plot?  the ending?  the message? the significance of the gate?  the stairs?   No!

So I read it again.  Was it worth it?  Sort of.  Moore’s thought-provoking observations sometimes go on too long, leaving the events secondary – maybe that’s why I did not remember it.  But when Gabriel re-enters the story, it all came back – this time the horror, the idiocy of people, was not a surprise.

But rereading A Gate at the Stairs brought also back a welcome familiarity with Tassie, the novel’s fulcrum – her wise sarcasm and Midwestern humor balancing the world going crazy around her.

I may have enjoyed it more the first time when it didn’t seem  so much like déjà vu.

Anyone else read it?  once or twice?