Long Overdue Update From the Countess

While I may have dropped off the face of the blogosphere for the last few months, I haven’t stopped reading. So here I am with a few highlights.

Some finished titles I really enjoyed:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert — this is the account of one woman’s spiritual journey through Italy, India and Indonesia. I actually listened to the audible book (finally broke down and subscribed a couple of months ago) and it was the first out-loud book that really held my attention all the way through. She did her own narrating and what struck me most was the authenticity of her writing style and how it matched her voice. It’s kind of like listening to Truman Capote or David Sedaris. You can absolutely hear them in their writing. She was witty and charming and human and (for me at least) someone I could completely relate to. Although her willingness to travel the world all on her own like she did doesn’t strike me as something I would have the guts to do, but then again, I surprise myself all the time. I found myself feeling rather envious of her faith (this is a common reaction when I find people who seem to have a profound and unshakable belief in something). I have her hunger for something more meaningful, but not her ability to suspend disbelief. Yet, on a metaphoric level, her explanations became a meaningful way to talk about my own experience and what is going on psychologically. I don’t want to spoil the book, but I will say that the conclusions she comes to at the end and the way she describes her metamorphosis really hit home. I don’t have to believe in god per se or anything really. There is something more than that. So, there you go. Excellent book — either listened to or read — and I highly recommend it.

The Violent Bear it Away by Flannery O’Connor — Let me just say this, if you have not read any of her short stories, go read them now and don’t talk to me until you have at least a couple under your belt. This woman was an amazing writer. The Violent Bear it Away is, I believe, her only novel. And I wish she’d lived longer and written more. Someday I intend to visit her home in Georgia — in fact, I’m sure it is the only thing that could entice me to visit Georgia.

The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket — Second to last book in the Series of Unfortunate Events. While the series did lag a bit in the middle at times, the last few books have been excellent. I appreciate Daniel Handler’s (the author behind Lemony Snicket) committment to maintaining the theme of the books and weaving such a fun and enchanting tale populated with such great characters (not to mention hidden literary and cultural references — half of which I’m sure I’ve missed!). Having finished this one, we are about to embark on The End. Book 13. The last one. I am sad to see it come to a close, but it will be nice to gain some closure. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Handler and let me tell you, this man is a rare and wonderful treasure. He has also written some novels for adults, my favorite of which is The Basic Eight (Kai, I think you would like it).

One book that I have deemed uninteresting and therefore abandoned:

The Corrections by Johnathan Franzen — The question I walked away with from the first third of the book is, “Do we really need another John Irving?” Do we really need more stereotypical self-loathing male characters who worship evil, manipulative and seductive women in this very self-deprecating, misogynistic fashion. Do you know what I mean? This modern archetype who falls “prey” to the feminine wiles of some young, perky-breasted co-ed who just happens to be intent on destroying them, you know, just for fun. And, of course, the men end up becoming their own force for destruction, as they fall further and further into their ridiculous obsession with the evil temptress woman. It is almost a psychotic mixture of longing and hatred and lust. Anyway, despite that, it was going along well enough until we started dealing with the second sibling who’s marriage sounds like my definition of hell. Yet he too loves it. Same with the father. Pathetic men paired with punishing and manipulative women. So, so tired of it. Anyway, when we get to the part where the patriarch of the family, who is succumbing to the advancement of parkinson’s disease, is having a conversation with a “turd man” in his cabin on the cruise he elected to take with his bitter and emasculating wife, I was done. Done, done, done.

A book I am about to start:

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Vol. 1: The Pox Party — anyone who knows me understands how much I love M.T. Anderson. I am constantly trying to get people to read Feed and any number of other books he has written. What I love most about him is his willingness to constantly try new things. Here we are again with another radical departure. We need more writers willing to do that and more publishers willing to let them… Anyway, here are a couple of links to recent interviews with M.T. if anyone is interested. He has such a great sense of humor and his responses are always very thoughtful:

Not Your Mother’s Bookclub

Kirkus Reviews

Other than that, a lot of my recent reading time has been spent with a non-stop parade of self-help books as I am currently struggling to get the “black dog” (as Winston Churchill called his depression) under control. I’m managing. Just not always well enough to participate as fully in my life as I would like.

Anyway, hope you all are deftly navigating the waters of this holiday season and that the demands of it all aren’t taking over the warmth that is supposed to be the point of it all 🙂

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2 Responses to Long Overdue Update From the Countess

  1. CAS says:

    To Quote:

    “…I am currently struggling to get the “black dog” (as Winston Churchill called his depression) under control. I’m managing. Just not always well enough to participate as fully in my life as I would like.”

    I can appreciate where you are coming from on this subject, Countess. I know how hard it can be to tango with depression. The good news is that it is cyclical. Cold comfort when you are suffering, I know. The other big thing to remember is you are in control, even when it does not feel like it (or worse…you do not want to be).
    I do sincerely hope that you find a way to manage and cope!

    Also, I could not agree with you more on “The Corrections”. I picked it up as it was a book lying around in the tube one day. So, without thinking that someone was actually trying to abandon it, I picked it up and gave it a read. I wish I had the sense to have just left it on the train!

  2. kaizerin says:

    Funny…maybe that’s why I never finished listening to the audiobook version? I started it on a 4-hour flight from DFW to PDX (that ought to give you a sense how many years ago we’re talking…) and I was sufficiently entertained for that timespan, but once on the ground, I never picked it up again. I’ve always felt kinda bad about not finishing it, but the two of you have freed me from that guilt now!

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