Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Review: Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I decide to write a review I usually do not include a plot synopsis. What I consider is the story and how the writer conveys her ideas. To describe this novel as simply the story of a marriage undermines the intensity with which Lauren Groff tells the story of Lotto and Mathilde.

First we read about the husband. The second half concerns the wife. And woven in between their stories are the lives that lie hidden. It's an amazing work and I applaud Lauren Groff for maintaining its intensity throughout the book.

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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review: Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir

Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir Dancing Fish and Ammonites: A Memoir by Penelope Lively
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In this memoir written by the wonderful novelist Penelope Lively, she describes so accurately the aspects of growing old. She was born only four years before me, so it was especially meaningful to me to read her views on living in these times and reflecting on the past. "The point here is that age may sideline, but it also confers a sort of neutrality; you are no longer out there in the thick of things, but able to stand back, observe, consider."

Lively also delves into memory, her childhood in Egypt, her love of gardens, books she admires and how she chooses topics for her own novels.

What I enjoyed most in Lively's memoir is her life-long love of books and how old age cannot diminish that aspect of her life. "Reading in old age is doing for me what it has always done - it frees me from the closet of my own mind. Reading fiction, I see through the prism of another person's understanding; reading everything else I am traveling - I am traveling in the way that I still can: new sights, new experiences."

"My point here is to do with the needs of old age; there is what you can'do, there is what you no longer want to do, and there is what has become of central importance. Others may have a game of bowls, or baing cakes, or carpentry, or macrame, or watercolors. I have reading."

Amen.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Walk in the Dentist's Chair


I’ve developed a simple way to endure the poking and prodding and drilling and filling as your dentist hovers above your face. Take a walk through the years.  I beam myself back to Brooklyn and the days when I walked to school, to stores, to movie theatres, and to the library.

Try it.  As soon as you picture yourself leaving your house, walk familiar streets while recalling where your friends lived and the hours you spent together.  The other day I walked down East 37th Street where my best friend Carolyn lived and where four of my other classmates lived in what were known then as the Trump homes.  (Built by the father, not the Donald.) These brick attached homes with a garage and a basement were considered a fine addition to my Flatbush neighborhood. 

Or your walk may take you past your church. Perhaps you stop in to say a prayer and light a candle, or look up at the choir loft where you sang Latin hymns.  And, if you’re old enough and if your thoughts reach deep enough, when you reach your local shopping area you may recall the local bakery where you first saw a bread-slicing machine or the sawdust on the floor of the local supermarket.

My dentist trick has worked for years, ever since I was a child. I developed it - it was the only way I had to endure Dr. DiGangi’s novocaine-less dentistry.  Now I no longer dread my annual visits with a more humane dentist.  I encourage you to try it. Long buried memories will emerge and when the dentist tells you to rinse, you may not want to end your reverie.