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Pickle Me This

July 11, 2006

Book News

I reread Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem on the weekend, which I read right before The Radiant Way in 2004 and which similarly became one of my definitively favourite books. I read it on the bullet train to Hiroshima for a weekend break at the beginning of that July, and I fell in love with it. I’ve read it again since, and expect to read it again and again regularly in the future. Because it’s brilliant. The writing is just so purely good, and Didion can write about anything and make it mythic and when I have her cadences and rhythms stuck in my head, I am a better writer. I am not sure if that constitutes cheating, but it works. And so after I read this book, I decided to read Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley, which I thought was the most brilliant book in the world when I read it fifteen years ago. It was sort of Didionesque subject matter if you really think about it, but the writing was so not Didion, and I got to the fourth or fifth page, and, nauseated by Pris’s burgeoning quivering sexuality in Junior High School, I just couldn’t go on. And so I shut the book, which I rarely do. I think if I ever read it again, it will have to be a day when I’m sick in bed and can’t be bothered to think. And so I moved on to The Bell Jar, which was brilliant. I hadn’t read it for years. The narrative voice is so authentic, and much like The Catcher in the Rye, when I read it the first time, I gave the narrator full credit for the story and took it as presented. It’s strange how willingly I did that once upon a time, and now that I am older, older than these characters especially, the books are entirely different. And following that, still riding an Americana wave (with a focus on neuroses), I took up Nine Stories by JD Salinger, and I am exquisitely happy with it.

3 thoughts on “Book News”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think I’ve read the Bell Jar. I know it has something to do with trolls, but doesn’t it also concern itself with telling the horrifying story of how a young woman finds herself paralyzed in New York, gobbled up at home, and electricuted in a mental hospital? Yikity yike yikes!!! I clearly prefer Catcher, which, if I remember correctly, ends with Holden and his suitcase carrying sister setting off for better. I don’t know about Bell Jar, but Catcher’s inspired some pretty groovy fan fiction. Some of it involves gun fights, but Holden’s up to it. So too his sister. And they end up finding ‘lahoma (just read Gen X), long blonde lawns, and, I’m happy to say, ample room in which to lollygag!

    Time for Gen X presentation. Wish me luck! (PatrickMH)

  2. Kerry says:

    Phoebe!! I love Phoebe! I maintain that Salinger wrote two of the best female characters ever in Phoebe Caulfield and Boo Boo Glass. Two fabulous feet-on-the-grounders among a whole pack of heads-in-the-clouds. Not that there is anything wrong with the latter, but the presence of those two midst all the madness is all the more impressive.

  3. Curtis says:

    Saw this today, interesting book stats. You’ll want to sit down before reading since you might faint.

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