Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Just Reading

For the last six months, as I have picked books from my long, reading list, an inordinate amount of them have been about loss: Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell, Elsewhere by Richard Russo, Blue Nights by Joan Didion, The Gathering by Anne Enright, and Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner.
And yes, Crossing to Safety is like twenty years old. My list is old -- I'm old.
The Long Good-bye, a Memoir, by Meghan O'Rourke tells of the author's grief after the death of her mother from colon cancer. O'Rourke's honesty as she lays out all her feelings, many of them raw and unattractive, makes this memoir a harder read. Even though I empathize with O'Rourke, at times she comes across as petulant and selfish, but the beauty of those emotional reveals is that it makes O'Rourke's deep grief palpable and moving. I admire her for her brutal presentation of herself as she continues to process her devastating loss.

A winner of the Flannery O'Connor award for short fiction, Andrew Porter's collection of short stories, the theory of light and matter, has its own themes of loss as well. In these ten stories, various narrators flashback to events in their past where an event changed the outcome of their lives. Whether it's a childhood friend's deadly fall or a suspicion that one's brother involved himself in a heinous act, each of these narrators carries a memory that weighs heavily on him. In the vein of Tobias Wolfe and perhaps John Updike, these stories' themes and characters' struggles, set in suburbia in the modern day, never become stale.
The third book I read, The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro, veers off this “loss” theme and into the world of art history. Claire Roth, a former rising artist, now uses her artistic skills to make reproductions for a company selling the copies on line. Her life changes when a former colleague asks her to make a copy of a Degas copy for an overseas client interested in good reproductions. Part lesson in painting, part art history, and part thriller, this light novel kept me interested. I needed it after --- well, after all of that loss.

Up next: – Birds of a Lesser Paradise – by Megan Mayhew Bergman – not that I'm gonna blog about it. :-)

ETA: I finished Birds of a Lesser Paradise, a collection of short stories, and it bears mentioning here that it is a wonderful read. The author, married to a veterinarian and an avid animal lover herself, incorporates a love for nature and animals in each of these stories. Her characters and narrators, realistic in a quirky way, charmed me as well as made me laugh. Worth it to read.... just sayin'.

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