Tonight is our big Halloween party, which includes an unruly trek around the streets of downtown Madison with a gaggle full of children. Then we all return to the building downtown we have rented out for the children to run off their sugar high while the grown ups dance and enjoy our own brews. I feel certain great fun will be had.
October was a good reading month that petered out at the end. I had a run of books I liked very much, and then in the last week or so, I was more interested in finishing the cardigan I have been knitting for myself for a couple of months now. There will soon be an urgent need for a nice warm cardigan. Here’s what I read:
The Fates Will Find Their Way, by Hannah Pittard. The premise of this book is quite intriguing, told from the first person plural perspective of a group of teenage boys and then men. I think it pays off, and raises some interesting questions I explored here.
The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick deWitt. Reading The Reapers are the Angels last month left me with a hankering for something Western-ish. I don’t read Westerns much, but I really loved The Sisters Brothers, which maybe doesn’t count as a Western anyway. I actually marked pages in this book, and was all set to review it. And then things happened. But it was very good.
Quite a Year for Plums, by Bailey White. I picked this up used at our local bookstore. To be more accurate, my husband picked it up and saw food in the title and suggested I buy it. And then it sat on my bookshelves for a spell, until I picked it up this week and read it. I’m so glad I did. Bailey White is a sometime correspondent for NPR’s All Things Considered, though I don’t remember ever hearing her. But her book is delightful. It’s about a town and the people in it, and I almost always love a good book about quirky little towns somewhere and the quirky people in them. White is amazingly efficient and evocative with her language. The chapters are short and they feel as if much of the connective tissue of your normal novel is not there, but you don’t miss it. You don’t miss it at all. It’s as if you’re floating above the town, landing down in brief moments of life described in sometimes elliptical detail, and yet from that, a very complete picture begins to form. It was just a lovely little read.
Lirael and Abhorsen, by Garth Nix. The last two books in the Abhorsen triology. I just got Across the Wall from the library, which is a collection of short stories, one of which takes place in Ancelsstierre. I loved Sabriel, and didn’t quite enjoy these two as much. But what’s strange is that I find myself looking at my cats and thinking of them as Moggett (a magical creature in the series who takes the form of a cat). And thinking about the Charter as a useful kind of metaphor in real life. The Charter is the source of the good magic in the series, and it’s always there for people to reach into for spells. Nix doesn’t full develop the exact nature of the Charter. There are no long expository essays built into the series in which a character explains what the Charter is, because they take the Charter for granted. But I’ve been thinking of it as a nice metaphor for the joy and happiness in our everday lives that is always there, if we can just reach into it and bring it to life. Sometimes that’s so hard that it certainly seems like magic.
I’ve just read the very beginning of the short stories in Across the Wall, and Garth Nix has a nice little forward and introduction where he talks about the writing process. That was quite interesting to read.
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, by Michael Chabon. Oh, ugh. Ugh is all I can say. I “listened” to this book. I put listen in quotation marks because quite a lot of the time this book could not hold my attention even when I was trapped in the car with nothing else. I can’t tell you what really happened here. It took me a very long time to figure out that there was no Jewish settlements in Sitka, Alaska, and that this was science fiction of a sort. There were ever so brief moments where I sat up in my seat and thought, “Oh, now this should be interesting.” And then, sadly, they were not interesting for long. Perhaps it was the actor who was reading the book, but I think I would not have finished this novel had I been reading rather than listening. It took something of an act of will to finish it even listening. And as I don’t have anything else nice to say, I’ll stop there.
I’m still working on the damned cardigan, and don’t really have much in my queue right now, though I will be reading some Murukami for this months’s book groups–After Dark.
On the non-book front, this month for Madison Monday, I shared our experiences on a steamboat cruise up the Ohio on the Belle of Louisville and the joys of Irish session night at The Electric Lady here in town. This week, I shared the benefits of imagining your life as a witty memoir.
Madison Monday this week I’ll be sharing my first ever paid performance as a fiddler during this Friday’s Art and Shop Hop in Madison. Teaser: It was cold.