Wednesday, February 21, 2007


We read Mother Teresa: A Complete Authorized Biography by Kathryn Spink for our book group. While it was very inspiring to read about this incredible woman of whom I did not know much, I found the book was lacking in some ways. As my friend Fauna said, "The book did not endear me to Mother Teresa." As an Amazon reviewer said about the book, it "reads, at times, like a laundry list of events with no coherent effort made to illuminate the person behind the events." I did, however, really enjoy our book group discussion about it. It was interesting to hear why others did love the book and thought it a very good treatment of Mother Teresa.

A few Saturdays ago I picked this up and had a lovely escape from February blahs. River Secrets by Shannon Hale follows the story of Razo, a character from Goose Girl and Enna Burning. It was good, though I preferred Goose Girl. (The one I didn't like so much was Enna Burning. Too much horror for me, but believe me, I have a very low tolerance for the slightest whiff of horror.) Shannon Hale has a great sense of humor that comes through very well in her books. I can also tell that she has an acting background, as her scenes are well-staged and the dialogue is usually interesting and believable.

I first heard about Twilight from Shannon Hale the time our book group met with her. She asked if any of us had read this book by Stephenie Meyers, who, like Shannon Hale, happens to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Evidently, this book and its sequel were bestsellers and have a tremendous following of teen readers. It's a love story about a human and a vampire. That's why I didn't run out to find a copy right away when Shannon mentioned it back in October. :-) But then Ave read it and said it was a fun read, so I thought I'd give it a try. That's a goal I have this year--to broaden my reading horizons. It was a fun read. We're not talking Song of the Lark, here, but I can definitely see why it appeals to teens. Ave and I were talking about the book yesterday and laughing about a few things. This book celebrates and justifies teen angst. Stephenie Meyers and Shannon Hale both have interesting web sites with good advice for the budding writer. After reading these two fantasy YA novels, I wondered if I could maybe write one. I started writing and quickly found that it's not as easy as I thought it would be. Maybe I should leave the fiction writing to Lidia.

Ah, this is my comfort zone. The Buccaneers was not finished by Edith Wharton before she died, but another writer has finished it. I see that it's been made into a miniseries. It's about five American girls in the 1870s who are wealthy, but cannot break into the New York's high society because their wealth is too new. They go to Europe in search of husbands who are titled but poor. (Not that they want poor husbands. But they don't seek money, they seek class.) I'm about a third through the book. I love books that explore societal mores and the individual's place in society.

In contrast to the above YA fiction, when I read a book like Song of the Lark or The Buccaneers, I do not think, "Oh, I could write something like that." I savor it as the work of art that it is, but I have no pretensions that I could achieve it, at least not at this point in my life. I do enjoy writing, perhaps in the same way I enjoy learning to play the violin. Writing helps me better appreciate the genius and hard work that go into producing great books, just as stumbling along on the violin make me that much more in awe of the virtuosos.


Michelle said...

Funny-our recent reading is similar. I read River Secrets a month or so ago. I liked it ok, but my favorite book of hers is Princess Academy and then Goose Girl. Do you know anything about the Book of 1000 Days that she's mentioned a few times on her blog?

I also just read New Moon, the sequel to Twilght. So much more teenage angst than Twilight. I liked Twilight pretty well, but New Moon was everywhere. She supposed to have the third coming out this fall. I don't know how she manages to be so prolific.

Several years back, I read The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, and really liked both. Lily Bart is such a memorable character, and the painful social rigidity of the times, as well as the difficult circumstances women faced without an attachment to man were sobering and unnerving. I'll have to pick up The Buccaneers. Do you know the story of the author that finished the book for Wharton? How does it hold together with two authors?

amity said...

I think I will read The Buccaneers. Alison and I tried reading Goose Girl aloud last year but we never made it through. Right now I am re-reading Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliott. It is hard for me to read books. They have to be realllllly good to sustain my lamentable attention span. Maybe that is why I like a good poem! Who is your favorite poet, Calandria?

athena said...

i picked up goose girl from the book store yesterday and began reading it. i haven't finished it but i am in awe of her journey, but more so that she has come to learn how to listen to the guiding voice within her. i'm very happy to see something like this on the shelves, especially a young adult fiction shelf. our youth really need to read books like this to help them recognise the spirit within them.

Calandria said...

Michelle, I don't know much about book of 1000 days, but shannon seems pretty excited about it. Also, I'm not that far into Buccaneers yet, so I haven't yet got to the part written by the other author. It seems that she wrote it from a synopsis written by Wharton.

Amity, it's hard for me to pick a favorite poet. I don't think I can! I tend to like American poets, besides the obvious Latins that you enjoy, like Paz and Neruda. I like Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell, and Marianne Moore. Emily Dickinson, of course. I suppose it depends on what mood I'm in. I would like to read some more modern poets. Sometimes I hear things I like on MPR--that spot that Garrison Keillor does. Amity, have you read many short stories? American short stories are the best. I like British novels, but give me an American short story any day. One of my favorites is Sonny's Blues by James Baldwin. I also love Willa Cather's short stories. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Flannery O'Conner write some great short stories, too.

Athena, you never fail to pick up on things that I don't notice in books. Sometimes it makes me feel like a dolt. :-) Now I want to go back and read Goose Girl to find where she's listening to her inner voice. :-)

Montserrat said...

I've been wondering when you were going to post on books again. :D I've been looking for a good book to read next. I'll have to see if our library has any of Edith Wharton's books. I haven't read any of her works but I've never been disappointed yet by any of your recommendations.

amity said...

Try reading "Cowboys are my weakness" collection of shorts or anything by Banana Yoshimoto!

Auntie Lee said...

If you are interested in poetry I like the BBC site with live poetry.
You can watch poets but also hear them. If you have a slow internet connection the poet reading is nice.
My favorite modern poet is Benjamin Zephaniah. He is funny and pick-me-up poetry is nice in the winter.
I haven't read the book over Mother Teresa but I remember seeing an interview of her a few months before she died. I found it interesting that she had lost her Irish accent and had an Indian English Accent. Since I am living in a foreign country I find myself purposely speaking English with a General American accent which I find a lot of work. I may mention that in my sociolinguistics course.

ave said...

I couldn't remember the author of that book "Magyk" that I just finished, well, her name is Angie Sage. I think Georgie would really like this book, or maybe just somewhat like it. JW and I both enjoyed the audio version quite a bit.