Books: End of summer reads

by anneMoore on September 18, 2017

 

I spent the end of August and into early September on the East Coast. First stop, beautiful Hanover, New Hampshire, where my youngest child and only daughter is a freshman at Dartmouth College. (Beginnings for all of us!)

From there I spent a few days with dear friends at their summer house on Lake Champlain.

Still more: up to Quebec for a week at our summer home on Lac Pythonga. Everywhere I walked, ran, swam, toured, read, ate well, laughed. With my eldest, I played a Civil War board game that was more interesting than I expected (the North prevailed.) I spoke a lot of French, piloted a big-ass Dodge Durango, and felt like I’d been away forever.IMG_8193.JPG

 

This is what I read:

I’ve inhaled everything Tom Perrotta has written (and own a first edition Little Children with its controversial Goldfish cover)  and was recently besotted with The Leftovers, both the book and the tv series. So it was a given to pre-order his latest, Mrs. Fletcher. I love Perrotta’s fiction (he also writes about sports) because it is clearly written (that is, words don’t get in the way of the story) and well plotted, surprising, relatable. Even the worst of his characters gets his, and our, empathy.
Unknown-1Mrs. Fletcher is sweet, a little raunchy, and less dark than his earlier works. It tells the story of divorced middle-age Eve, who runs a community center for seniors, whose only child leaves for college. It starts with a literal bang: while Eve packs the mini van, Brendan gets a farewell blow job from his high school girl. Brendan is off to the bro life of a good looking athlete, replete with booze and girls, while lonely Eve comes home to binge Facebook and make lists to improve her dreary life. Oh, how the tables turn.
It’s not a short book at 307 pages, but I read it in a day. So did my sister Liza. It’s that kind of tale: engaging, funny, real. I didn’t want it to end.

 

Mid 20th century Japan is an interest of mine since I studied it at Columbia University with Donald Keene, who translated ancient to modern Japanese Unknownliterature. Since college, I’ve been happily making my way through the work of Junichiro Tanizaki, who writes about post-war Japan and its cultural changes. Some of his, like Naomi, are erotic high comedy. The Makioka Sisters, a favorite of mine, is the story of a family, where nothing and everything happens. The Maids, which I just read, is a companion piece to Sisters, and brings us into the lives of the family’s servants. I liked it for the descriptions of everyday life (fashion, footwear, cuisine) and the weird intimacy that forms between these girls and the man of the house; they’re more than help, they’re chaste companions, shown off for their beauty and poise. These girls serve ten years or more, and form bonds with the family; some are married from the home.

 

I turned to the shelves in Pythonga for two great reads. One is Michael Lewis’s Flash Flash Boys pbk mech.inddBoys, which explains the machinations of high frequency trading and the “fair” stock market established because of it. A must read. I also picked up and enjoyed Michael Pollan’s A Place of My Own, which chronicles the building of his writer’s studio. So much to love: the shack’s design and siting, the architect’s thinking, Pollan’s change from befuddled to adept, the step by step beauty of custom-made windows. A gem.

 

Finally, back at home I picked from my piles Ali Smith’s Autumn. I’m glad I did. It’s a strange read, an elegy of England as it leaves the EU, a treatise on art and artists, and the story of an everlasting friendship between an old man and a young girl that turns to love as they age. Beautiful.

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