Back to the Library

Short chapters are my kryptonite.

Well, I may be using the word wrong. I've never actually seen any of the Superman movies or read the comics (although I do own the soundtrack from the TV show Smallville). What I mean is, I'll get sucked into almost any book if it offers short chapters, even if I'm not enjoying the book or the subject matter that much. Because I seem to be powerless against them, short chapters are my kryptonite.

Glitter and Glue
by Kelly Corrigan

The Short Chapter Lure most recently got me to page 136 of Kelly Corrigan's latest memoir, Glitter and Glue. Corrigan is the author of the memoir The Middle Place, which was a rather surprise big bestseller. I never got around to reading that one, so when I saw this new memoir by Corrigan, I thought I'd give her a try. In The Middle Place, she laid bare her own struggle against cancer and her relationship with her father; in this book, she writes about her time working as a nanny in an Australian family with two children (in a household where the children's mother had recently died from cancer) and how her experiences there made her re-evaluate her (often contentious) relationship with her own mother.

In retrospect, I should have known this wasn't going to be a book for me when I read this: "That schedule left all unpleasant tasks to my mom, who liked to point out, Your father's the glitter but I'm the glue." (p. 47.) Now, I understand all the unpleasant tasks being left to Mom. But saying things like "your father's the glitter but I'm the glue"? Yeah, no. In the 100+ pages I read, I did get the picture that Mom Corrigan was a formidable and surprisingly funny woman and mother, but I just can't imagine any of the mothers I know saying anything like that.* But: as previously noted? Short chapters. So even when the book wasn't setting me on fire I just kept on going, really feeling like I was getting somewhere, because every 3-5 pages I got a new chapter.

It's not a bad memoir. Corrigan's a serviceable writer and keeps the story going nicely, and her story is not without insights, like: "But now I see there's no such thing as a woman, one woman. There are dozens inside every one of them. I probably should've figured this out sooner, but what child can see the women inside her mom, what with all that Motherness blocking out everything else?" (p. 88.)

But somewhere in the middle I thought, am I only reading this because I feel like I'm flying through its short chapters? Am I really enjoying it? And the answers to those questions were "yes" and "no," so I'm going to read the last ten pages or so for closure and then take it back to the library.

Have a happy weekend, all.

*In my family we're more apt to say less poetic and more pragmatic things, like "Thank God spring is here so I can get that man into the garden and out of the house."

Back to the Library: April 2013

Well, here's two more books I had to take back to the library yesterday, unread:

Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning, by Benjamin Bergen

Here's a bit from its PR blurb: "In Louder than Words, cognitive scientist Benjamin Bergen draws together a decade’s worth of research in psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience to offer a new theory of how our minds make meaning...Meaning is more than just knowing definitions of words, as others have previously argued. In understanding language, our brains engage in a creative process of constructing rich mental worlds in which we see, hear, feel, and act."*

And here's a review: Kirkus Reviews


Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked Age, by Steven Johnson

Johnson is the author of several of those types of nonfiction books I call "Making Sense" or "Big Think" books--like The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I don't know why I keep checking Johnson's books out; he completely annoys me in that "the future is gonna be GREAT!" way that all Wired magazine authors do. (I mean, I hope the future will be great too, but I don't know that it's going to be great, and let's face it, "great" means different things to different people. Walking around attached to a smartphone at all moments of your life, for instance, doesn't really sound "great" to me. But that's just me.)

But, here's a bit from its promotional copy: "At a time when the conventional wisdom holds that the political system is hopelessly gridlocked with old ideas, Future Perfect makes the timely and inspiring case that progress is still possible, and that innovative strategies are on the rise. This is a hopeful, affirmative outlook for the future, from one of the most brilliant and inspiring visionaries of contemporary culture."

And here's a review: Wall Street Journal**

Now, on to other stuff I can maybe actually get read before it comes due at the library.

*It was way optimistic of me to think I was going to make it through a denser book like this just now. I just don't have the concentration, sadly.

**Frankly? I read the first ten pages of the Johnson and was bored to tears. Even when the book was the only thing in my bathroom I still didn't feel like reading it. And the same thing happened to me reading this review, which probably means I should find a different review to post. But linking to a review I couldn't finish of a book I couldn't finish seemed too right not to do.

Back to the Library: November 2012

It is becoming absolutely ridiculous how many books I check out from the library and then return unread. I have tried to turn this into a positive, by viewing the carrying home and returning of books as my exercise regime, while at the same time boosting circulation numbers for my local library. But in reality it is just annoying, as so many of the books I have to return (most often because they are overdue and other patrons are waiting for them) are ones that I really want to read. Not always, but often. So here's last month's list of unread books. I'm sorry if these are annoying posts, but they will function for me as a sort of back-up TBR list--I can't read these books right now, but I'd like to get them back in the future. I thought you might enjoy seeing them too--a lot of the times they're books that fly slightly under the radar but might be interesting to you all the same. For the most part I'll quote off their dust jackets, which are sometimes painful to read, but which should give you an idea about their contents.

ManlyHeimbuch, Craig J. And Now We Shall Do Manly Things: Discovering My Manhood Through the Great (and Not-So-Great) American Hunt. Requested this one after I couldn't get through Steven Rinella's American Hunter, and I wanted to see what this new subgenre of "hunting memoirs" is all about. Here's a bit from the back cover; this book is: "the witty, moving, and insightful story [see what I mean about painful?] of one man's quest to free himself from the shackles of his domesticated suburban lifestyle by immersing himself for one year in the hunting culture his family has always cherished." The book seems like it might be an okay read, but not a great one; here's how he describes a mounted bear head in his dad's basement: "The bear, on the other hand, gives me the creeps. It's all soft fur, claws, and teeth. And the eyes--I swear it's looking at me, pleading with me to be taken down from the wall of the dim basement. 'Put me in a ski lodge,' it's saying to me. 'I want bikini models lying on me. I want to be the set of a late-night Cinemax movie. Please!'" (p. 4.)

Walkable citySpeck, Jeff. Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time. From the front cover blurb: "But in the typical American city, the car is still king, and downtown is a place that's easy to drive to but often not worth arriving at...Speck reveals the invisible workings of the city, how simple decisions have cascading effects, and how we can all make the right choices for our communities." I still really want to read this one. I love and believe in walking, but no one else in my Midwestern city does. I live approximately two blocks away from an awesome grocery co-op and I put my life (and CRjr's life) in danger whenever we walk there, because we have to pass through an insanely busy and poorly marked intersection that I call "the intersection of death."

Sullivan, Robert. My American Revolution: Crossing the Delaware and I-78. Not too interested in the subject of this one (the Revolutionary War and its place in the history of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) but I love Robert Sullivan, and have ever since I read his fantastic book Rats.

Vonnegut, Kurt. Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. Damn. Damn damn. Having to take this one back unread really hurts me. Love reading letters; love Kurt Vonnegut; 'nuf said.