Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Tuesday Books

Guess what I'm doing today? You're never going to believe this, but I'm recording a story for public radio. I'm going to be on Definitely Not the Opera which broadcasts in Canada, on a couple of NPR stations in America and on Sirius channel 137. I'll give you all the details of when it airs and if you don't live in an area where you can listen or don't have satellite radio, there's also a podcast you can listen to. I'll provide the details closer to air time. I've never been on the radio before, so I'm a little nervous. Wish me luck. I hope I won't do something stupid. I'll be telling my story rather than reading it, which I think I'll do ok with because most of my stories start out as conversations I have with people anyway.

In the meantime, we'll talk about some books because I need to talk about books. Being an out of work English teacher, I really miss blabbing endlessly about books, so I have to do it here lest I lose my mind. Plus, I'm a bit fanatical about literacy and reading and promoting deserving authors. 

Just Read 

Last week I finished Jessie Sholl's Dirty Secret. It was fantastically well written, compelling and uniquely suspenseful for a memoir about being the daughter of a hoarder. Parts I felt were a little over-dramatized, but Sholl has a talent for pacing the story. Her strength as a memoirist is knowing when to back off the story and step out of it when the events she's narrating become too intensely emotional. When a writer deals with very harrowing, heavy material, it can become too painful for the reader, who periodically needs relief. Stories need small breaks and Sholl provides these nicely throughout her story by inserting a few paragraphs here and there which give the clinical facts about hoarders and how their minds operate. These facts also teach the reader and help him or her have compassion for people who suffer with hoarding. Excellent book and very well done. If you are riveted by TV shows about hoarding or are related to a hoarder, this is the book for you.

Continuing on with disturbing memoirs, I just finished Margaux Fragoso's Tiger Tiger: A Memoir. This book is not for the faint of heart, which I am. It's hard, painful and extremely graphic in telling about how the author was abused by a pedophile for nearly fifteen years, while her parents and other adults who could have protected her, essentially ignored the obvious. In many ways this book reminds me of Dorothy Allison's novel Bastard Out of Carolina, which is a fantastic piece of writing, but Bastard Out of Carolina is fiction and fiction is allowed a happy ending. Fragoso writes about the terrible facts of her own life and I didn't get the happy ending I needed here. Life doesn't always have a happy ending as we all know. I'm not sure that Fragoso has or will ever have that distance from the events I'm always talking about. Sholl has it in her memoir, but in reading Fragoso, I felt like the material was still too raw and too new, though with something so traumatic one wonders if it's ever possible to gain perspective. Fragoso's writing is evocative and provocative. Her descriptions and metaphors are poetic and lovely to read, but I felt like the book would have worked better for me had she concentrated more on how she overcame the abuse and if maybe she expanded a little more the few pages at the end where she discusses how pedophiles operate. I believe that when a writer takes on a difficult topic like this that there is some responsibility to at least try to create something positive out of the horrific, to provide some hope for others who have suffered similarly or to help prevent these things from happening to someone else. Fragoso doesn't exactly do that enough for me to feel ok about her subject matter. In terms of craft, Fragoso is fantastic. She is a master at showing not telling and at trusting her reader enough to let him or her make conclusions. There is very little exposition in this memoir and almost everything is in scene. Fragoso does a beautiful job at showing us each of her characters through what the other characters say about them and honestly, it's excellent writing.

Reading Now

A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel.  A reader recommended this to me and as usual with reader recommendations, I'm loving it. I haven't gotten too far but this is hilarious and after two memoirs of mental illness and utter depravity, I needed something funny again. So far, I adore this book.

Waiting in the Kindle

Oh my God Tina Fey has a memoir!!!!!!! I can't wait to get done with Zippy so I can read Bossypants. Tina Fey is my idol. I love her and want to be her, except at my height and without glasses because I always lose my glasses. An excerpt of this just appeared in the New Yorker a couple weeks ago and it was hysterically funny. I can't wait to read this book. Yay yay yay!! Tina Fey wrote a book!!

You all reading anything good this week?


Lara said...

My book club just finished reading "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave. I'm sorry to say that I can't tell you what it's about, because it's one of those books that you just have to discover as you read it. I will warn you to give yourself plenty of time, since you won't be able to put it down, and keep a box of Kleenex handy. And maybe a copy of Tina Fey's biography.

Faye said...

Oh! I just finished reading 'Dirty Secret' last night! What I felt was compelling was the contrast of the author's own obsession with her mother's house and her mother's obsession with her stuff. If you like memoirs (and it appears you do)I would recommend 'Geisha: A Life' by Mineko Iwasaki. Its one of my personal favorites.

Donna said...

Zippy grew up just down the road from where I grew up. Never met her, but I did know several of the people mentioned in the book. It's good that she was able to find humor in her upbringing, because by all accounts, it was even worse than she makes it seem. I can't even imagine. Ug. Still, funny stuff. When you are done, read "She Got Up Off the Couch" - or as I like to call it, "Zippy, Part Deux."

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