It’s that faithful time again. I’ve finally completed the next twenty books of two-thousand-and-eleven and I’ve capsized the boat of my bookshelf and emptied them onto my floor to take a stronger look and give you the most intimate details of my relationship with that book. It’s been a long time comin’; between family gatherings, holidays with food that makes you sleepy (most vegetables make me dreamy, so in essence I want to sleep, or just lay there with my eyes open, staring at the clouds and guessing at their shapes. Mostly I just see Abraham Lincoln).
So, as always, I’ve torn apart, stared into the heart of, and developed crushes on about one-hundred book characters in the last two months and I want to share with you my not-so-scientific findings of what my heart and brain both agree to read.
1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer
Jonathan’s name is too long for me to fit all five stars and because the fifth one goes to the next line, I’m just going to be completely and utterly OCD and leave it simply at four (even though he deserves five). His books will appear two more times in this list (including the book that made me turn to Vegetarianism) and I am pretty much obsessed with him. If he wasn’t married to Nicole (who writes drawn out novels that don’t make connections between plot lines until the bitter end), I might have tried to scoop him up. Completely ignoring the fact that he’s Jewish and I’m Catholic and that he possibly has a facial mole (which for some reason I can’t get over….I’m not molist or anything, I just would need time with the thing).
Anyhow, this book is everything magical about September 11th. I know that it’s a devastating day in US History and will probably be discussed in eighth grade textbooks for the next millennium, but this book makes it so different from a day filled with smoke, and humans, like you and me, flinging themselves out of seventy story windows to die from pavement rather than fire.
This book is told in the perspective of a young boy, Oskar, who has lost his dad in the September 11th attacks. Oskar finds a key in a vase, and goes on a secret mission to find everyone with the last name of Black in NY which is the name on the envelope where he found the key. He’s quirky, inspiring, innocent, and thoughtful. He’s like the nerd you always wanted to be friends with in elementary school, who had that awesome My Little Pony lunch-box, only you finally got that seat at the cool table and it was too early in your life to realize it’s cooler to be uncool, and to just be smokin’ hot.
I may or may not have cried till there was snot creeping at the corner of my mouth, and then laughed until I spit all over my cat. This book will run you the whole emotional gambit and it will be worth every cent, or gas for the trip to the library that you have. My favorite way that I’ve seen this book described is “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is Jonathan Safran Foer’s love letter to New York City,” and I could not agree more. (Plus, no one calls him “Foer” in reviews because they’re not sure if they should put
“Safran” as well, so they just put the entire, fill-up-all-the-scantron-bubbles name).
2. The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood
This is a retelling, sort of, of The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus. It’s in a collection of books where modern authors take myths and turn them into modern novellas. I really like Margaret Atwood, the cover popped out at me at the library, and I decided why not, you’re a pocket-sized novel I could take a bite out of for an evening. And, I did just that.
Now, I’m kind of a freak when it comes to Greek Mythology, like I’m obsessive. I really think I was Cassandra in another life (thus the name now) and that my name can tell you a lot about me by just googling. It’s like people who are obsessed with horoscopes except a sort of reincarnation, with less rope sandals and just as much maiden-esque hair. So, that said, I’m a bit bias. Atwood did this novella so well, she even had the Greek Chorus (which were the thirteen maidens who ended up dying because of their supposed gossip over Odysseus’ grand adventures) and Penelope comes off as such a strong and cunning individual rather than the way she is portrayed in history as the faithful, and do-whatever-my-husband-asks, doting wife.
Atwood is a known feminist (as am I) and I think she did Penelope a favor, and I choose to believe Atwood’s bra-burning version of the tale rather than the all-men chorus of Greek Writer’s who alluded to Penelope or wrote about her. It is time a woman author, and a woman character had a voice equivalent to their powers and Atwood does just that. This book can be read in two hours, literally. So, pull out your dusty rocking chair, covered in pollen from the last few weeks, and put on some bug spray and dive into an evening of Greek myth and romance where the female winds up on her white steed and controls her house, and her many suitors.
I am a writer, educator and genuine creative living on the coast of NC. Our house is built on sunshine with my husband BJ, dog named Tucker, and our two very sassy cats: Fromage and Jasper.