Saturday, September 15, 2007

Books! 2007

Been reading lots of books lately.

The Front Runner: a novel about love by Patricia Nell Warren first, so I can return it back to the library. Checked it out because it was listed as one of the top 5 books in the 40th anniversary issue of The Advocate. I enjoyed almost every word of this book, although some of the language is a bit cold and clinical ("homosexual" is used a lot), but perhaps that relates to how early the story begins, and how repressed the narrator was in the beginning. He makes quite a journey from beginning to end, and it reads more like an autobiography of a track coach than than a novel.

Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherfurd was fascinating, educational, and satisfyingly LONG (1033 pages). It reminded me a bit of James Michener's novels, treating the history of the land and the people who live on it, intertwined. Sarum is the old name for the area around Salisbury, including the grand old earth and stone works Stonehenge in the south of England. The story begins with the retreat of the ice 12,000 years ago, up to a glimpse of life in 1985. A few families are followed for most or all of that twelve millenia! Rudimentary family descents are shown with the maps.

I re-read the first six Harry Potter books before digging into Harry Potter . What a wonderful conclusion to a great series! Rather than winding down, they only got better and better.

Another great series, also (sadly) coming to an end is the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden has grown in power, smarts, experience, and likeability!

I started another series, beginning with Evans above by J. Rhys Bowen, but have stopped with one. Set in Wales, you'd think they would be right up my alley, but ..... eh.

Finishing lotsa books lately -- reviewed Sex in Middlesex on the genblog. Finally finished Living By Fiction by Annie Dillard. If you are interested in modern fiction, and interested in thinking more deeply about it, get this one, and read it slowly. I had to put it down every page or two and think for a day or so. Yes, it's that good. Now finishing Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, and think I'm going to read all of them. Quite delish!

Finished More Tales of the City, and it is a gripping, hilarious, sad, shocking page-turner. Maupin can sure spin a tale!

Further Tales of the City is a bit far-fetched, but perhaps that's because Jim Jones and the deaths in Jonestown are the background to a major part of the plot. Mary Ann continues to mature and grow stronger, as do the rest of our beloveds. DeDe in particular becomes a force to be reckoned with -- and in league with Mary Ann! I would love to know who the un-named gay actor is -- my guess is Rock Hudson.

The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease was a novel I picked up on sale, and what a bargain it was! Set in the 14th Century, it tells the story of rich and poor, religious and not, politics local, religious and national. The illuminator of the title and the woman he comes to love, Lady Kathryn of Blackingham Manor are the couple the story weaves around. I loved it.

Losing patience at waiting for Middlesex, tonight I decided to read the long-awaited The Maytrees by Annie Dillard. Oh, she had to be older to write this wonderful, poetic novel, and I think you might have to be older to read it, too. Set in Cape Code, for the most part, it is the story of Lou and Toby Maytrees, their lives and loves, art, poetry, work and thoughts. And such thoughts! Annie Dillard is a national treasure. Living By Fiction was difficult for me, but so illuminating! Even though I had not read many of the modern novels to which she referred. I would love to take a class where that was the curriculum -- her book, and the modern novels. I think it would have to be a year long! I shall have to read more of her books, since Pilgrim At Tinker Creek was immensely important to me years ago. But for now, since I don't have Middlesex, I'll finish the Tales of the City final trilogy, and report back!

Back to Barbary Lane has the final three novels of the series; Babycakes (1984), Significant Others (1987), and Sure of You (1989). In Babycakes we connect with Mona again, first in Seattle, and then -- can it be -- in London? Michael trades his apartment in Barbary Lane for digs in London, and adventure ensues. Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, Mary Ann continues her climb up the ladder of fame, stepping on Brian's heart all the way. Still, he gets a baby out of it all! Significant Others introduces us to Thack, Michael's new lover. Brian gets his own AIDS scare, and Mary Ann continues to hone her act. DeDe & D'Or have their adventure at a lesbian women's arts and music festival (Wimminwood), while Booter (Frannie's new husband) frolics and mourns at the Bohemian Grove a few miles away. Finally, an full-size model named Wren draws them all together in a crazy and almost frightening wrap. Brian and Michael become partners in the nursery business. Sure of You follows Brian and Mary Ann to the end of their relationship, and almost to the end of Brian and Michael's partnership also. Mona and Anna Madrigal journey to Lesbos together, re-cementing their relationship. Thack and Michael also grow closer, as they live and build their life together. I'm happy to say that Armistead has written one more book to cap the series, which was published this summer, Michael Tolliver Lives. As soon as I can order it from the library, I'll be reading it! What an amazing series, braiding comedy, wisdom and grief together in a wonderful human pageant. Having now read Michael Tolliver Lives, I'll just say that it is a very satisfying end to the series. We get to catch up with everyone, thank goodness!

Hah! I was gonna write a long review of Middlesex, but instead, I'll simply link to Tamaranth's review:

Thanks to LibraryThing for everything.

Now on tap, Nuala O'Faolain's second memoir, Almost There (2003) is leaving me eager to read her first memoir, Are You Somebody? (1998), and her novel, My Dream of You (2002), and her biography of the Irish criminal, The Story of Chicago May which came out in 2005. What a lovely writer.

Next up, Armistead Maupin's The Night Listener which I'll read soon, since I have the movie on DVD from the library also!(I did like the book much more than the film, especially since I'm such a Maupin fan.

My Dream of You was even better than I had hoped. Totally absorbing, and so rich in history, language, feeling, Ireland, wonderful characters, and thoughts about love, sex, passion, family, aging. Completely satisfying. :-)

Are You Somebody: Memoirs of a Dublin Woman, Nuala O'Faolain's first book, was also great. Not as well written in places, but the writing gets better and better through to the end, which is *amazing.* Written as the foreward for a collection of her Irish Times columns, it was a huge best-seller in Ireland in 1996-7. When an American publisher picked it up, she wrote an afterword, and the columns were not included. The afterward alone is worth the read.

Thus endeth books read in 2007.

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