Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kiss Me Like A Stranger - Gene Wilder

I got this book from a friend to take on my trip.  I finished it on the flight to Washington DC and left it behind for someone else to enjoy.

The book is a memoir of Gene Wilder's life (he's in his 80's now, born in 1933.  Early on I felt the book was stilted, I did this, then I did this...etc.  Telling instead of showing.  I marked some passages that caught my attention, here's one:

p. 56 [about Acting] Stanislavsky method is to have the character want something (your objective) which  needs "actions" to achieve them.  Lee Strasberg used sensory memory to evoke a feeling needed in a role instead.

The author seems an honest, kind but very sad man.  He tells some of the story through conversations with his psychiatrist - which is a bit awkward but at least breaks up the "telling".  He could have used a lot more creativity in the writing.  Maye his only point was to record his life.

I was touched at how love unfolded in his life.  Always there, on the fringes sometimes, never any really big highs or really deep lows.  His family relationships sustained him throughout his life.  I felt an acceptance for what life had given him.

Published: 2005  Read: July 2014  Genre: Memoir

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake - Anna Quindlen

I really enjoyed this memoir.  I have read her fiction and was interested in finding out more about the author.  I picked up the book at the used book store.

Anna discusses all aspects of life as she reaches her 60's.  Family, friends, aging, parenting, faith.  She's a member of my generation, the feminist that grew up on the edge of the 1960's and broke (or at least cracked) the glass ceiling.  Her attitude of acceptance of what life brings was inviting.  She has been married since her late 20's to the same man and has three children.  She's lived between NY city and a place in the country.  I'm reading Barbara Kingsolver's book, "Animal, Vegetable..." and it's interesting to compare and contrast the lives of these two authors.

I didn't mark any passages in Anna's book; I'll have to go back and pick out the pieces that spoke to me and update this blog.

Published: 2012  Read: July 2014  Genre: Memoir

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Art Forger - B.A. Shapiro

This is a mystery suggested by one of my book clubs that I borrowed from the library.  I'm not a fan of mysteries because they are either too easy to figure out or impossibly convoluted.  I also find I will speed read just to see how the mystery is solved and miss the sub-plots and other interesting bits.

This is the story of Claire, a professional artist who is working as a copier of fine art after having been disgraced in the art world of Boston.  She is approached by a gallery owner, Aiden Merkel, to make a copy of an original Degas painting that was stolen by some unknown thieves from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in 1990 so that Aiden can return the original to the museum.

Right away credibility is stretched.  Is this woman an idiot?  Well, the author shows us she is, explaining her infatuation with an artist, Ian, that lead to her disgrace.  Despite that painful lesson, she falls for Aiden's offer which leads her to getting accused of forgery.

The author does a good job of explaining the history of the museum (it really exists) and the theft (it really happened, just not of the picture described in the book).  There's also details of how art work is forged.
Where the story fails is in the plausibility of the main character and the tired, cliched descriptions.  I found the author's descriptions of scenes and emotions to be lacking; her similes and analogies just didn't ring true.
The most annoying part of the book is the gullibility of Claire and her loyalty to Aiden, despite him obviously being deceitful from the beginning.  I also figured out the real "thief" almost as soon as the character was introduced.  Guess I'm just not meant to read mysteries.

Published: 2012  Read: July 2014  Genre: Mystery

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Last Time I Saw You - Elizabeth Berg

Another used book find and a short read for the airplane.  I enjoy this author.  She first caught my attention when I read "Talk Before Sleep [2006]" about friendships between women.

This is the story of going to one's 40th high school reunion. I had the experience of going to a 60th birthday party for my senior classmates and wanted to compare notes.  The characters are quirky and obsessed with the high school years.  Of course, only those who are so inclined would plot and plan and imagine all the things that could happen at a reunion.  I found the premise a bit ridiculous seeing has high school is more often a miserable memory for many and by this time, life should have taught us that there's no going back. But the characters plunge forward with their dreams of redeeming relationships and saying what was left unsaid.

It was funny in parts and honest about how we really haven't changed on the inside that much since those years.  A woman next to me on the plane, a school teacher on her way to a convention, commented on how she liked the author so when I finished I gave her the book.

Published: 2010  Read: July 2014  Genre: Fiction

A Conspiracy of Paper - David Liss

Picked this up in the used bookstore's $3.00 and less table for my trip to North Carolina.  It met several criteria:
1) not too heavy (I was flying)
2) an award winner (someone thought it was worth reading)
3) about finance (fiction and finance, what a great combo)

The author reveals in an interview in the Reader's Notes (a section that seems to be in most books these days, for reading groups that can't come up with their own intelligent sounding questions) that he wrote this while pursuing his doctorate at Columbia.  He figured he couldn't make a living writing fiction so he thought to teach and entered graduate school.  The book came out of his research on the beginning of the modern stock market in the 1700's in London.

It's the story of a Jewish fighter who deserted his family to make his own way on the streets of London. When he's injured he turns to "debt collection" meaning he uses almost any means necessary to see his customers have the value owed them returned promptly.  He gets hired to research the death of a "stock-jobber" a man who trades in stocks in Exchange Alley.  As his own father was both a stock-jobber and killed in a similarly mysterious manner, he sets out to solve both murders.

I enjoyed the mystery, which I'm usually not fond of because I thought I'd figured it out and was suprised when I hadn't.  I really liked the explanation of how a market is made in stocks and how probability applies to stock trading as well as mystery solving.

It's written somewhat in the language of the time so there is a wealth of new words to savor.  The descriptions of clothing and taverns, privileged and poor are rich and detailed.  I plan to seek out more from this author.

Published: 2000  Read: July 2014  Genre: Fiction/Mystery