Where's the book?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why I'm not a mathematician

Isaac Newton. He could count.
Mainly because I can't count.

My last entry was called book #33.

And the entry before that was called, "29, 30, 31, 32..." But it only covered three books. So it should have been "29, 30, 31..." And the next book should have been counted as #32. 

Which makes this next one book #33. And which makes me really bad at math. Or at least at counting.

And now here are, if I've counted correctly, numbers 33, 34, and 35. I think.

#33. I picked Summer Reading out of the pile at the used book store
because I was looking for something by Meg Wolitzer, having loved The Interestings. My search was unsuccessful -- nothing by Meg -- but they did have a book by her mother, Hilma Wolitzer. I was curious to see if their writing styles were similar, and they are. But Summer Reader is Wolitzer light, or lite. It's a moderately entertaining book, a quick read, revolving around a summer reading group of wealthy women in the Hamptons. The books they read are all favorites of mine and it was pleasant to see how references to Vilette or Madame Bovacy were woven into the story. But it made me want to read one of those richer, deeper books again, instead of this thinner imitation. 

#34 was the September choice for my book group (thank you Maggie), and it was an unusual one, by an author I'd never heard of and will now have to look up to make sure I get the spelling right. Skylark by Hungarian author Dezso Kosztolanyi was written in the 1920s and set around 1900 in a small town in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The story covers one week -- one strange and glorious week in the lives of what the author refers to as an "elderly" couple (they are in their late 50s). Their much-loved thirty-something year old spinster daughter, Skylark, has left for a week to visit relatives. They weep at her departure and then, slowly, they begin to bloom in the absence of their humorless, oppressive, loving, stultifying warden. They go out to restaurants. They go to the theater. They drink and play cards and see friends and laugh. All the things they do not do when their beloved Skylark is home. The story is quite subtle, funny at times, and deeply moving. You do not recognize the point at which you realize that Skylark is almost as much hated and feared as she is loved. It's a wonderful, quiet, sympathetic, magical book. 

#35 is a newbie: I picked up The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani because (a) like The Interestings, it's another novel about camp, and I like camp and (b) I bought the hype. The setting in this story is a combination riding camp and school for girls in 1930, and the main character is Thea Atwell, a teenage girl who has been sent away from her idyllic Florida home for some awful deed. What the deed is and why Thea has been cast out of Eden becomes slowly clearer as the story moves along, and although at first I was irritated by DiSclafani's careful doling out of hints, I was eventually drawn into the story, and the sexual charge that underlies the book. It's a bildungsroman for girls, a thankfully subtle story of a complex young woman learning about life and herself. In lesser hands it would have been a silly teen novel about girls and boys and sex and bad deeds. But DiSclafani is better than that, and although her deliberate style got on my nerves, and almost all the characters other than Thea are tissue paper thin, Thea is thankfully complex, and bold, and intelligent, and unapologetic. I can't say I loved the book, but I liked it. And I'm looking forward to the movie. Jennifer Lawrence, I assume? 

J.La as Thea? I'm down. 

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