This mysterious novel fits the stereotypes of German literature: puzzling, intellectual, and existential. Immediately, the off-kilter atmosphere and tone of the story brought a smile to my face. The first third at least is full of physics and philosophy as two friends Oskar and Sebastian spar over conflicting theories of time. Coincidentally (if there is such a thing as coincidence), this leads to kidnapping and murder. That’s when the ailing detective Schilf and his protegee Rita Skura get involved. The plot perhaps gets slightly more conventional here. But plot isn’t why I like this book. I’m in love with the language–it’s so lush and original. And I’m in love with pondering. I neither want nor need pat answers.
Edward O. Wilson is justifiably famous for writing nonfiction. This is his only fiction book, but it is still about the subject he won the Pulitzer Prize for: Ants. So if you’re used to his nonfiction, you have to have a different mindset in order to enjoy this book. It’s the coming-of-age story of Raff Cody who grew up in Clayville near Mobile, Alabama. His mother’s family is quite wealthy, and his father’s is anything but. As in all good Southern fiction, there are plenty of gothic characters like the reclusive volatile Frogman, the family keeper of stories Aunt Jessica, the radical Christian Wayne LeBow, Raff’s on-again off-again girlfriend JoLane Simpson, the land developer Drake Sunderland (pulling the land asunder?)…
This memoir is especially funny and poignant if you grew up in a Midwestern town in the 1950s as Bryson did. Almost everyone I spoke with said they laughed a lot while reading it. As one patron said, “It was over the top and you knew it was over the top and you embraced it!” That’s the way with memoirs. Authors can selectively remember and exaggerate and get away with doing both.
“It is 1942, and Louise Pearlie, a young widow, has left rural North Carolina for Washington, D.C., to try to rebuild her life working as a clerk for the legendary Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA.” [pub. info.] The most interesting thing about “Louise’s War” for me was her war for women’s rights in society, at home, and in the workplace. Clothing was very reflective of this. For example, Louise wore cotton anklets and canvas shoes for both comfort and economic reasons, despite the men in her office saying they wished “you girls [my emphasis] would start wearing stockings and heels again.” One of the higher administrators wouldn’t let his wife apply for a factory job because “I’d look like a sap with a wife in coveralls. I won’t allow it.”
Author Hugh Howey self-published this book in bits and pieces in 2011 and it ended up on the New York Times bestseller list. A post-apocalyptic world is made up of a single silo many, many stories underground with access to all levels via one spiral staircase. The atmosphere outside the silo is toxic. Inhabitants may not say or even think about a better world. If they do, they are suited up, shoved out of the silo, and instructed to clean the one set of windows with special wool pads. The rebels defiantly say they are not going to do that, but they always do.
I’ve always enjoyed Roger Housden’s poetry books starting with “Ten Poems to Change Your Life” 808.81 HO. I’ve often given them as graduation or wedding gifts. In his latest compilation, Housden included some of my favorite poets (Wendell Berry, Rumi, and Denise Levertov) and introduced me to several who may become favorites. His descriptions of the different kinds of love and progression of love through the stages of life seem to make sense.