Monday, August 26, 2013

Blue Shoe - Anne Lamott

I like this author.  She is so real and honest and spot on about real life.  This story is about a woman, Mattie, who is recently divorced, has a declining mother and two confused children and is still pining for her ex while figuring out her life and talking to God for help.  Her life is messy and she makes the wrong choices over and over.  I like the author's observations on life, her spot on portrayal of family relations.  I ended up not liking Mattie and wanting to shout at her to get her act together.  I don't think there was a moral or lesson in the story so much as a picture of how people muddle through.

Published: 2002  Read: August 2013  Genre: Fiction

Last Chance to Eat - Gina Mallet

I picked this up in a used bookstore because the cover had a picture of a happy, laughing child holding a chicken!  The sub-title is "The Fate of Taste in a Fast Food World".  It was hard to figure out what the story was about.  The author is a foodie and the first few chapters had recipes mixed in with observations on how foods are being corrupted by corporate food companies, artificial manufacturing of food stuff and other sins of industry.  She discusses eggs, brie, meat, gardening and fish with nostalgia for the ways things were and a warning that we will shortly not be able to taste food as it was meant to be.

Published:  2004 (2006 edition)  Read: August 2013  Genre: Non-fiction

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery

This is the story of two people - Paloma, a 12 year old girl who is plotting her suicide and Renee, a 60-something concierge of the building where she lives.  They are both isolated by their beliefs and thoughts about how the world defines their place in it until a new tenant moves in that opens their eyes to other possibilities.

The book's title comes from an observation Paloma makes about Renee's friend and some of the tenants' housekeeper, Madame Michel ..."[she] has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she's covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary--and terribly elegant."

Paloma is critical of her family and the world, feeling she is far to intelligent to bear the dreariness of reality.  Renee is also very intelligent yet hides it because she feels it is not appropriate for her position in life.  Both are really very lonely people who are not comfortable connecting to other people because of their own misguided self concepts.

I think the author went overboard in revealing Paloma and Renee's knowledge to make the point that intelligence does not bestow a clear view of reality.  As a result, the characters are annoyingly pretentious. I felt the author was being smug and could have made her point with far fewer words.

The reviewers loved this book, gushing over its irony and wit, calling it elegant and exquisite.  I guess I'm a plebeian.

Published: 2006   Read: August 2013   Genre: Fiction

Hallucinations - Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks is one of my favorite non-fiction authors.  He is a neurologist who writes about our brains and the strange and wonderful things it does.  In this story, he explores the causes and experience of hallucinations.  He differentiates them from dreams as hallucinations occur when we are conscious and we are rarely integrated in them, as we usually are in dreams.

The chapters cover Charles Bonnet Syndrome, sensory deprivation, smell, sight and hearing hallucinations, parkinsonism, migraines, epilepsy, delirium, narcolepsy and a few other experiences of hallucinations.

I was surprised at the number of conditions that include hallucinating and fascinated by the personal accounts of the experience.  I thought it was an engaging and worthwhile read.

Published:  2012  Read: August 2013  Genre:  Non-fiction, medical