Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Review: A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a delightful book! Ove, a curmudgeon, never disappoints.....he releases his scorn, his bad temperament, and his set-in-stone opinions on everyone. Yet, there is a sort of charm in this "old" guy. (I kept imagining a man in his eighties but it turns out he's only in his late fifties.)

The joy I found reading this book was similar to when I read "The Elegance of the Hedgehog." Both books' main characters are unusual in the sense that they are atypical and opinionated yet somehow endearing.

There are many laugh-out-loud moments in this book that just highlight the personality traits of Ove. I am glad I listened to someone who recommended it; otherwise I would have missed a really enjoyable book!

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Review: The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone by Olivia Laing
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Laing's depth of research makes this a compelling book. She writes not only of her own loneliness upon coming to New York City from England and her solo walks throughout Manhattan. She delves into the psychological and the life events that can be the source of much loneliness, especially as it relates to such artists as Edward Hopper and Andy Warhol. (Laing writes interestingly, too, of some artists unfamiliar to me - Henry Darger, a hoarder who created art from his collections, and David Wojnarowicz who became an AIDS activist.)

She also writes about the effect of technological devices. "The relief of virtual space, of being plugged in, of having control. Everywhere I went in New York, on the subway, in cafes, walking down the street, people were locked into their own network........ We haven't just become alienated because we've subcontracted so many elements of our social and emotional lives to machines. It's no doubt a self-perpetuating cycle, but part of the impetus for inventing as well as buying these things is that contact is difficult, frightening, sometimes intolerably dangerous."

This book is not only for those of us who mourn the loss of in-person face-to-face communication, but for those of us who want to understand the life experiences that cause loneliness.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Laundry Room Theatre Reviews

There’s an old man in my apartment complex who I usually meet when I’m in the laundry room.  His name is Jeff and he’s very hard of hearing so my side of the conversations tend to be extremely loud.    The topic is always the same: Broadway and Off-Broadway shows. Because I learned early on in my nine years here that Jeff has been a theatre-goer since a child, as have I, the subject is always “Have you seen _____?"

Just outside the laundry room one morning in a loud voice I agreed with his favorable review of “Therese Raquin.”  I think my neighbors with their windows open might have heard my own review of the acting, the script, the sets and the music.  Despite a less-than-stellar New York Times review, both Jeff and I agreed it was a marvelous show.

Although Jeff uses a cane, it doesn’t stop him from getting on the bus sometimes three days a week for the ride into Manhattan.   Jeff once told me that he used to review shows for broadcast at Lincoln Center.  Or was it that he read newspaper reviews for recordings? Regardless, Jeff knows his theatre.

I will never be able to match the number of shows he sees each year (although I have sixteen binders of Playbills dating back to 1952),  it is nice to chat and share opinions.

Jeff’s wife works at my public library but I hadn’t met her until a few weeks ago when she overheard me telling someone where I lived.  When I mentioned to her how much I enjoyed meeting Jeff in the laundry room and sharing theatre experiences, she remarked, humorously (I hope), that I’d better not get any ideas!  No, lady, not to worry!

By chance I happened to see Jeff at Lincoln Center recently when I was there for "The King and I."  Jeff said he was there to work. But please don't mention this accidental meeting if you're in the library.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Review: Sweet Caress

Sweet Caress Sweet Caress by William Boyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This interesting novel tells the life story of Amory Clay, born into Edwardian England, whose life as a photographer takes her to Paris, New York, the war in Europe, and the war in Vietnam. In between she escapes to her island off the coast of Scotland where she keeps a diary of her experiences. Amory, deliberately given a male name by her father, is determined, free-thinking, and lives by her own rules.

Although it's fiction, William Boyd has created a vibrant person and casts her against a background of interesting times.

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Friday, July 1, 2016

Review: The Past

The Past The Past by Tessa Hadley
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

There's a reason why I did not like this book and I believe it may not have to do with the author, the plot or the writing. I had anticipated enjoying Tessa Hadley's novel because I'd read her before and this story promised to be one that I'd relish. But I grew impatient with the characters, the plot and the multitude of descriptions about the countryside and its woodlands.

I believe the cause of my dissatisfaction was the fact that during the time I was reading this novel I was also immersed in all the steps it takes to move to another home. The result was my lack of focus on the characters and the events in the novel. I have often heard it said that moving is one of life's most stressful events. If there's a next time, I'll take that message to heart and save my reading hours until I'm settled.

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