In the last week I have finished two books.
The first was "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion.
It is a very good book but also very sad. It's basically a 300 page personal essay about her life starting on the day that her husband of nearly 40 years dropped dead from a heart attack as they got ready for dinner one night. Funny stories, sad stories, painful memories and difficult things that are going on in real time are woven with quotes from psychology books and grief counselors on what happens to a human being as they grieve. It's extremely honest.
It is also interesting to learn about her marriage. She was married to John Dunne (another writer) when she was 29 and they were best friends who helped each other with their work that entire time. A very unique and great relationship. Which really hammers home the sadness and emptiness when she just doesn't have him one day.
I almost read this book in 07 and my friend Jenni was like "don't read this while you're going through a breakup." She was right. I'm glad I waited. I would have totally cried more and thought of all the things I missed and all the memories etc... and that would have just been wallowing and not really appreciating that what she lost and what I lost were incredibly different things. I lost almost nothing and she lost everything. I am glad that I didn't cheapen it with my own dramatics. I highly recommend it though. It's well written and interesting and heart breaking.
I just learned from looking up this image to post that it was done on Broadway as a sort of one woman show starring Vanessa Redgrave. That's interesting. I would be interested to know how they dramatized it.
The second book is the new book by the author of "Prep." I liked that one a lot so I was psyched when I saw this at St. Marks Books a few weeks ago.
The NY Times review said something like "you may think this book sounds boring, and it does. It's a book about loneliness." That is extremely paraphrased but it really made me want to read it for some reason. To be clear, the review was a positive one. I like that the protagonist in Prep was angry and trying to figure herself out (she's 14 when the book starts) so I was interested in seeing a lonely, angry adult woman in the next book.
I recommend it. I really love the way Sittenfeld writes. In the book there is barely any description of what the main character looks like but just time after time of her putting her own looks down and worrying that she's not pretty enough. It's the kind of stuff that I'm glad to see a lady writing. Women are often much harder on themselves after all.
I also oddly identified some with the main character. She thinks too much and when she's a teen and in college she way overthinks men and kind of assumes she's not good enough for any. I went through that same phase and the day I realized that I was doing it was a huge eye opener. I like to think that I've grown up since then but who knows.
Also, the girl doesn't have tons of guys fawning over her (like way too many other books and even annoying "Ugly Betty") and she spends a lot of time alone. That is a brave stance for a book about love to take.
Here is what I wrote about Prep in 2006: http://bananaseat.diaryland.com/060706_51.html
Next up I am planning to read the Jane Austen books that I have never read, starting with "Persuasion." My friend Rory was shocked last spring when I told him that I had never read that one but Pride and Prejudice is my most favorite book of all time. He was all "it's like a dirtier, older, sequel to P and P!!! You have to read it." So, when I saw it in the bookstore for 2 bucks I thought "well, I guess I have to read this." I am excited to see how it unfolds.
Was this incredibly boring? I am terrible at writing reviews of things I like. I am much better when I totally hate something. Isn't that always the way?