For the first time in ages, I brought more books on a trip that I had time to read. CRAZY TIMES. I blame my laptop, which I brought with me expecting to work on my Marlene Dietrich/von Sternberg paper (yeah, didn't happen. Applied for an extension, and wrote most of it in a too-much-coffee-not-enough-food trance on the first of September. At 20 pages, it's the second longest essay I've ever written), as well as only having four full days with my family, some of the few people on this earth I prefer to books. I did, however, read:
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell: One of WORD's perennial bestsellers, and I never got around to reading it until I wasn't working there anymore. Better late than never, though--it is, in fact, a marvelous book. Less experimental than I expected, in that it's really the structure that is unusual (six nesting novellas, like matroyshka dolls), as each narrative is fairly straightforward in and of itself. I'm amazed by Mitchell's creation of six such distinct, compelling individual voices, my favorite being the spluttery what's-all-this-then erudition of "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish."
Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches' Guide to Romance Novels, Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan: I don't know that I've ever read a romance novel cover to cover, but my high school bestie and I gleaned hours of entertainment whilst working at Goodwill together--paperback books were like a quarter, and we'd highlight the naughty bits (and sometimes select words to create wholly unintended naughty bits); we were also aficionados of the classic overwrought Zebra Historical covers. (Later, in college, my sister and I decorated one of the bathrooms in the suite we shared with a linked chain of lurid titles: Beloved Viking to Viking Betrayer to Betrayed by Passion, e.g.) Said high-school-bestie is in fact having her first Regency romance (Season of Temptation) published by Kensington in October 2011--I could not be prouder (or more hopeful of appearing on the Acknowledgments page).
Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying that this book, by the foundresses of the blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, is smart, eye-opening, and absolutely sheer-f-ing-hilarious. Can't think of the last time I LOLed so much at a book!
Meeks, Julia Holmes: Tied with Sarah Wendell's appearance at the romance-section launch for WORD Event I'm Sorriest I Missed in July was the launch for this slim, spare, haunting debut novel from Small Beer Press, a teensy Massachusetts publisher run in part by my favorite little-known author, short-story genius Kelly Link (READ HER READ HER READ HER. DO NOT PASS GO.) The book takes place in a rigid dystopia wherein a returning veteran (from a generations-long war against a never-encountered Enemy) tries to vain to get his hand on a bachelor suit, without which he can't marry. Really well-done, especially in terms of lack of backstory--as if the novel's the tenth of the iceberg that juts above the surface of history.
Sag Harbor, Colson Whitehead: Gosh, this book is great. I first read it in hardcover last summer, at the relentless urging of then-boss Sarah, and I think it may be a perennial summer read for me. This time around, it was still funny through an unexpected nine-hour layover in Baltimore AND the day I had to put down my oldest cat. Powerful endorsement, eh?