This week has been totally schizophrenic has it not? Monday morning’s soul crushing snow and cold which gave way to an afternoon full of sun and warm breeze, the beauty of yesterday (have we seen anything like that since October? I don’t think so!) and then today cold spitting rain. It’s April and my boy T.S. Eliot was not lying when he called it the ‘cruelest month’. I don’t know about you but I found myself literally chasing sun this week. Whenever it was out, so was I and I was amazed at how it elevated my mood and outlook. The People of the Weather say that this Sunday is going to be amazing while the beginning of the week will be a sodden sorry mess which I suppose gives credence to the whole April showers, May flowers thing, so I charge everyone with the following task: Go outside and play. Take a walk, plant a pansy, visit the beach and report back. I promise you that you will be amazed at how good you will feel. This week we have lots of things, some midlife, a couple for the ages, hoarding, tension, the reappearance of Jeanne, an amazing debut novel, and what would Friday be without The Playlist?
Let us begin!
Barbara M is showing her gathering skills this week. “I absolutely love Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities by Kevin Kelly. A Thank You to Lois for bringing this book to my attention. It is a modern version of The Whole Earth Catalog filled with solutions to things you never knew you needed solutions for. I’ve already bought one to give as a gift. It’s filled with things I never knew I needed: a JarPop easy jar opener, E.A.R. foam earplugs, a Black and Decker Accu Mark Level. It’s a catalog and so much more with helpful advice like how to keep track of your books and which seat to choose on an airline. It’s an encyclopedia of useful and useless facts, objects and sites guaranteed to keep you glued to your computer for hours and hours.”
Sweet Ann is reading a book that has rapidly become a darling of the Reader’s Advisory Department, The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol. “This is a French novel which was translated into English but anyone can relate to it. The characters in this story are dealing with job loss, infidelity, disgruntled teenage children and other midlife issues. The story centers on Josephine whose husband leaves her to raise crocodiles in Africa with his mistress. She and her two daughters are devastated and the eldest, Hortense is angry at her mother for her father leaving. Josephine's life becomes more complicated when her sister convinces her to go along with a crazy scheme. This is a light, enjoyable read that will make you smile. I think this book is a great way to welcome spring or bring to the beach in a couple of months.”
Miss Elisabeth of the CL spent a pleasant 117 minutes this week with one of my personal favorites. “I actually squealed with glee when I saw it: The Long Hot Summer is streaming on Netflix! This is one of my all-time favorite movies. The chemistry between Paul Newman and his future wife, Joanne Woodward, is so crackling it leaps off the screen. They play characters that embody the archetypes we saw them as: Newman is the drawling, gorgeous outsider with a heart of gold and charisma aplenty, while Woodward is an ice queen with a molten core. I think it’s one of the sexiest movies (with no sex!) ever produced. The script was based on two William Faulkner short stories, one of which, Barn Burning, can be found in The Art of the Short Story in the Literature section, or on audio in Collected Stories. This is a must-see, and it’s very rarely available on streaming sights, so watch it while you can! “
Virginia the Tall Cool Texan is heeding my advice. Good Girl Virginia! “Having never read E.L. Doctorow, I was on the verge of picking up his new book, Andrew’s Brain when Jen made the recommendation to first try an earlier work of his, Homer & Langley. I am so glad I did because I just loved the book. This novel is based on the infamous New York hoarders, Homer and Langley Collyer. Doctorow takes considerable historical liberties by extending the brothers’ lifespans and exploring their inner lives. It is well-written, interesting, fun but at the same time absolutely tragic when you realize these two men had real lives with serious problems that in the end destroyed them.”
Steph is reporting back from last week. “To complete my report on The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara: Wow! I loved it. I like nothing more than being surprised by a book, and this book surprised me on multiple fronts. Yanagihara is a spectacular writer. What’s impressive beyond her obvious ability, though, is her ability to write in the pompous voice of a horrible person while simultaneously skewering that person. Further, though she builds up tension so subtly that I’m not sure I’d be able to expect it on a re-read. This tension builds to the point of near breath-holding in the final sections. I only wish I had read it sooner.”
Jeanne has been quiet these past weeks. A little too quiet if you ask me. Here is what she’s been up to. “I have been busily reading 2014 Nutmeg nominees to get ready for Nutmeg @ Night and trying to catch up to the fantastic four Children’s Librarians. Maybe that won’t happen, but I am having so much fun trying. My current favorites are The Candymakers by Wendy Mass and Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn. I have also been listening via Overdrive and Hoopla so here is my audiobook playlist. I absolutely loved A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. The narrator, Colette Whitaker was perfect and the story, while a tragedy in the very recent past, was compelling with great characters and fantastic dialogue. I enjoyed Divergent and Insurgent by Victoria Roth and read by Emma Gavin. One of our esteemed colleagues says this is cookie cutter dystopia, but if you haven’t read the other cookies, who cares? I tried The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philip Sendker and I am not sure if it was the narrator, Cassandra Campbell or the story, but I abandoned that about half way through. I went on to listen to Orange is the New Black: My Year in A Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman; also narrated by Cassandra Campbell. It is a memoir of the author’s time in Danbury’s Federal Correctional Institution. She served several years of time after doing something very stupid and illegal while a student at Smith. I thought Campbell was a perfect voice for the author and the many different inmates that Kerman meets. I am currently hitting PLAY on The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and read by David Pittu. This book has gotten a lot of great press and I have high hopes.”
I am totally in love with Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth. This debut novel, based on the author’s life has me savoring each and every sentence. Mary Byrd Thornton is a matron of a certain age living her life in a Mississippi college town when the phone rings one morning. It’s the police telling her that she and her family will need to go back to her childhood home in Virginia because they have cracked the long cold case of what happened to her nine-year-old stepbrother back in 1966. The writing is rich and descriptive and just downright darkly funny in a way that it seems only southern writers can be. This one comes out in June and I am buying lots of it.
DJ Jazzy Patty McC has left The State Up North this week for the Wrong Coast. While I am sure that this is an improvement in climate, I am not sure that it is an improvement in general. “This week I boarded a Boeing 767 headed for Los Angeles to enjoy a respite of sorts, an opportunity to relax, catch up with friends, soak up some sunshine and perhaps bury my feet in the sand. What I hadn't planned for was spending 4.5 hours seated with a man who was violently ill the majority of the flight. Let's just say that there were not enough plastic bags to contain the fluids or prevent it from hitting the deck. I'm giving myself a reboot. Right now I'm sitting on my cabana balcony overlooking a work of art by David Hockney in the swimming pool. Foster the People just shot their video here yesterday for their new song Best Friend and today the radio world will descend on the hotel for the Worldwide Radio Summit. I think I'm going to get in the car, drive out to Santa Monica, dig my toes into the sand, soak up some rays and listen to some tunes. This just might be the reset button I need. So today, find your reset button, push play and chase after some sunshine. I'd be willing to bet it will put a little spring into your step.”