Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reading More in 2010

It's January 9, 2010 and so far I feel like I'm making good on the promise to read more in 2010. I've read two books so far; both were Christmas gifts that I requested when my son asked, "What do you want for Christmas, Mom?". The answer was easy. He was floored to discover that I have a "wish list" on Amazon with titles waiting to be read.

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore was on the NY Times short list of best fiction in 2009. I've read short stories written by Moore years back but never a novel. She writes well, even if the central character in this tale was (to me) a bit unbelievable, beyond-her-years (only 20). True, she showed her awkward and inexperienced side and acted before thinking on more than one occasion.....but....her independence (from everyone) was a bit hard to swallow. Lessons learned. Tragedies of growing up. Weird experiences in the life of a young mid west college student haling from a potato farm in the months post 9/11. The loneliness of youth, beautifully rendered.

When Tassie returns to her college apartment after Christmas break she walks into this scene.

"I had inadvertently left bananas to blacken on the counter over break, and even though I'd wrapped them in plastic,and even though the air was chill, when I came back from Starbucks, the apartment had by then warmed a little--the radiators steamed like trains; had the landlord spotted my return?--and I could see there were fruit flies beginning to flick around the sink. Flour moths fluttered like the tiniest angels from somewhere--who knew? Flour moths but no flour. I grabbed at them midair like a mad person. The Mexican strawberries in the refrigerator had grown the wise and cheery beards of Santa Claus, and some Peruvian pears were cauled with mold. The cream cheese was a tub of dull green clay."

She goes on to say..."Then I put on a sweatshirt and long underwear and went to bed hoping that in the morning, the new year would reveal its newness: so far it seemed painted too familiarly in my heart's old sludge."

Next up, Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls, the author of the extraordinary memoir, The Glass Castle (highly recommended by the way). Half Broke Horses is the story of Wall's maternal grandmother told in the first person, memoir style. The author calls it a "true life novel. Although her grandmother died when she was six, Walls combed through family photographs, documents, and the memories of her mother to pen the story of one amazing woman, a gutsy before-her-time feminist, teacher, wife, mother, ranch owner who loved to drive and loved to fly.

"I was an excellent driver. I didn't particularly like city driving, with all the stoplights and street signs and traffic cops, but out in the country I was in my element. I knew the shortcuts and the back roads and had no hesitation heading out cross-country barreling through the sagebrush and startling the roadrunners out of the undergrowth. If we got stuck in a ditch while I was ferrying around the schoolkids, I had them get out and push while we all changed Hail Marys. Push and Pray!, I'd holler while gripping the steering wheel and gunning the engine, sand and rocks spraying behind the spinning tires as the car fishtailed its way out of the ditch."

Lily Casey Smith was afraid of nothing. Admirable and kick-ass in the same breath. I would have loved to know her. This is a great read.

I'm just starting my next book today, Mary' Karr's newest memoir, Lit, chronicling her adult life. More on this read later.


  1. Thanks for these recommendations, Kate. First time I've heard of your current reads but the third reference I've seen to "Lit." I really need to get in the habit of stopping by my town's library to see what's on the shelves. The library is not usually on my way and has irregular hours but that's no excuse not to make the effort.

  2. These all sound wonderful. I am impressed with the excerpt you quoted - what great powers of observation the author has!

    I enjoyed Glass Castle, and it will be interesting to read more of Walls.

    These are going on my list, all three.

  3. I will definitely try to read more this year. I think with my easier schedule I will find more time!

  4. Wonderful. I am trying to do the same thing. I ordered a subscription to New York Magazine to see if I can fill my mind with quality stuff that's short and current, at least.

    I also had to start with something simple.. Pulled out Little House on the Prairie because I always love reading that in winter. When I was a kid, I pretended I was in that house, with the fire burning, where you had to make and store most of your food for the winter... I find it's easy to pretend all that even now.


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