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Pickle Me This

August 15, 2013

Books in the Meantime

paleyAnd there are books in the meantime. My vacation reads continued right up until yesterday. I read Grace Paley’s Collected Stories for a whole week, and they were amazing, difficult, heavy and gorgeous. I admire her sympathy for all/most sides of an argument, her courage in exploring unlikeable characters. I’d not read her since I became a mother, and I must confess that it’s altered the experience. “Faith in a Tree” was my very favourite. That phrase, “my comrades in the mother-trade”–it has stuck by me. I think we’d all get along so much better if we thought about things in those terms.

this oneAfter, I read This One’s Mine by Maria Semple, the first novel by the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? It was not a very good book, and yet I read the whole thing and enjoyed it, which is significant because I have very little stomach for not very good books these days. Lack of quality aside, there was something about it. Semple’s characters are so profoundly unlikeable, absolutely offensive, politically incorrect. I was horrified again and again, and it’s not so often that happens. In this novel, Semple is not so adept at plot, but she creates fascinating, surprising characters. I also loved the novel’s setting, its LA, which made me realize that although the two books have nothing in common stylistically, This One’s Mine is actually Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays on bubblegum. So I read Play It… next, the second time I’ve done so, and I really liked it, whereas I think it just confused me last time. I think I’ve realized that a short book cannot necessarily be read so breezily.

And now I am back reading new releases, Night Film by Marisa Pessl, which Janet Meslin really didn’t like very much. Gearing up for September too, getting ready for projects and assignments. Basically, my maternity leave is over, but this feels right. It doesn’t seem very healthy to be all-consumed by someone who is 10 weeks old anyway, even if she can roll over. (Yes!)

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