Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tuesday Books on Wednesday

Late, late Wednesday. But here we go.

The gays!

A domestic story told in numerous original and endearing voices. The story opens with Wesley, a tenth grader, and involves his two sets of parents (the mom and her second husband, a very thoughtful doctor; and the father who has become a major gay lawyer/activist and his fabulous "significant other" who owns a restaurant).

Wesley is a fabulous kid, whose equally fabulous best friend Theo has just won a big school election and simultaneously surprises everyone in his life by announcing that he is gay. No one is more surprised than Wesley, who actually lives temporarily with his gay father and partner, so that he can get to know his rather elusive dad. When a dramatic and unexpected trauma befalls the boys in school, all the parents converge noisily in love and well-meaning support. But through it all, each character ultimately is made to face certain challenges and assumptions within his/her own life, and the playing out of their respective life priorities and decisions is what makes this novel so endearing and so special.

Kentucky author...or possibly Arizona...or Tennessee. IDK.

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. She hikes up a mountain road behind her house toward a secret tryst, but instead encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

Just in time for Christmas. It seems the War on Christmas is much older than even Faux News knows.

One Christmas Eve in a small hollow in Boone County, West Virginia, struggling songwriter Jesse Walker witnesses a strange spectacle: seven devilish figures chasing a man in a red suit toward a sleigh and eight reindeer. When the reindeer leap skyward, taking the sleigh, devil men, and Santa into the clouds, screams follow. Moments later, a large sack plummets back to earth, a magical sack that thrusts the down-on-his-luck singer into the clutches of the terrifying Yule Lord, Krampus. But the lines between good and evil become blurred as Jesse's new master reveals many dark secrets about the cherry-cheeked Santa Claus, including how half a millennium ago the jolly old saint imprisoned Krampus and usurped his magic.

Now Santa's time is running short, for the Yule Lord is determined to have his retribution and reclaim Yuletide. If Jesse can survive this ancient feud, he might have the chance to redeem himself in his family's eyes, to save his own broken dreams...and to help bring the magic of Yule to the impoverished folk of Boone County.

Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, writes the introduction to this collection of short stories...that's enough for me!

“She knows what to do with shadows,” Peter S. Beagle writes with perfect accuracy in his introduction to this moody, haunting collection from fantasist Phillips (The Burning Girl). “Gin” and “Country Mothers’ Sons” depict families with dangerous secrets: alcoholism and lycanthropy. The dehumanizing realities of war and its consequences form the foundations of “Brother of the Moon” and “Virgin of the Sands.” In “The Rescue,” a young woman is imprisoned in a mental hospital as a hostage to ensure her rebellious family’s cooperation. A mild-mannered historian is saddled with the role of protecting the world’s magic in “Proving the Rule.” The most haunting stories reveal the alien and strange beneath the normal: life forms under the Antarctic ice in “Cold Water Survival,” the troubled writer of “Queen of the Butterfly Kingdom” whose muse offers another reality beyond the unkind real world, and the murky, potentially dangerous line between imagination and illusion in “Castle Rock.” Phillips’s crisp, dense writing draws readers into intimate, seductive worlds of shadow and emotion. (Publishers Weekly)

From the author who incorrectly answered the question How to Make an American Quilt.

Bestselling author Whitney Otto’s Eight Girls Taking Pictures is a profoundly moving portrayal of the lives of women, imagining the thoughts and circumstances that produced eight famous female photographers of the twentieth century.

This captivating novel opens in 1917 as Cymbeline Kelley surveys the charred remains of her photography studio, destroyed in a fire started by a woman hired to help take care of the house while Cymbeline pursued her photography career. This tension — between wanting and needing to be two places at once; between domestic duty and ambition; between public and private life; between what’s seen and what’s hidden from view — echoes in the stories of the other seven women in the book. Among them: Amadora Allesbury, who creates a world of color and whimsy in an attempt to recapture the joy lost to WWI; Clara Argento, who finds her voice working alongside socialist revolutionaries in Mexico; Lenny Van Pelt, a gorgeous model who feels more comfortable photographing the deserted towns of the French countryside after WWII than she does at a couture fashion shoot; and Miri Marx, who has traveled the world taking pictures, but also loves her quiet life as a wife and mother in her New York apartment. Crisscrossing the world and a century, Eight Girls Taking Pictures is an affecting meditation on the conflicts women face and the choices they make. These memorable characters seek extraordinary lives through their work, yet they also find meaning and reward in the ordinary tasks of motherhood, marriage, and domesticity. Most of all, this novel is a vivid portrait of women in love — in love with men, other women, children, their careers, beauty, and freedom.

As she did in her bestselling novel How to Make an American Quilt, Whitney Otto offers a finely woven, textured inquiry into the intersecting lives of women. Eight Girls Taking Pictures is her most ambitious book: a bold, immersive, and unforgettable narrative that shows how the art, loves, and lives of the past influence our present.

(The answer is whipping.)

Bailyn's next book will be on the same themes but will chronicle a Christmas season in a typical American shopping mall.

Bernard Bailyn gives us a compelling account of the first great transit of people from Britain, Europe, and Africa to British North America, their involvements with each other, and their struggles with the indigenous peoples of the eastern seaboard.

They were a mixed multitude — from England, the Netherlands, the German and Italian states, France, Africa, Sweden, and Finland. They moved to the western hemisphere for different reasons, from different social backgrounds and cultures, and under different auspices and circumstances. Even the majority that came from England fit no distinct socioeconomic or cultural pattern. They came from all over the realm, from commercialized London and the southeast; from isolated farmlands in the north still close to their medieval origins; from towns in the Midlands, the south, and the west; from dales, fens, grasslands, and wolds. They represented the entire spectrum of religious communions from Counter-Reformation Catholicism to Puritan Calvinism and Quakerism.

They came hoping to re-create if not to improve these diverse lifeways in a remote and, to them, barbarous environment. But their stories are mostly of confusion, failure, violence, and the loss of civility as they sought to normalize abnormal situations and recapture lost worlds. And in the process they tore apart the normalities of the people whose world they had invaded.

Later generations, reading back into the past the outcomes they knew, often gentrified this passage in the peopling of British North America, but there was nothing genteel about it. Bailyn shows that it was a brutal encounter—brutal not only between the Europeans and native peoples and between Europeans and Africans, but among Europeans themselves. All, in their various ways, struggled for survival with outlandish aliens, rude people, uncultured people, and felt themselves threatened with descent into squalor and savagery. In these vivid stories of individual lives — some new, some familiar but rewritten with new details and contexts — Bailyn gives a fresh account of the history of the British North American population in its earliest, bitterly contested years.

Just kidding.

On one hand, this is rather romantic. On the other, it is akin to the bucket of ears chat up from Coupling.

Explores the fascinating subject of 'lover's eyes', hand-painted miniatures of single human eyes, set in jewelery and given as tokens of affection.

You may also have this stuck in your head now.

I love Kirstie. Even if she thinks John Travolta is hot (and not gay...not that I want to claim him).

Kirstie Alley has won an Emmy; a Golden Globe; starred in reality shows, finished second on Dancing with the Stars, and then returned to the show for the current season; gained weight, lost weight, gained weight again; played a half-Vulcan, half-Romulan Starfleet officer; and interacted with men even more unforgettable than Sam Malone. In The Art of Men, she spills the truth about guys who have motivated her or infuriated her; and her own self-image problems, triumphs, and disappointments. A candid, hilarious autobiography. Cheers! (Barnes and Noble Review)

Beloved for his epic agony, brilliantly discerning eye, and hilarious and constantly self-questioning tone, David Foster Wallace was heralded by both critics and fans as the voice of a generation. BOTH FLESH AND NOT gathers 15 essays never published in book form, including "Federer Both Flesh and Not," considered by many to be his nonfiction masterpiece; "The (As it Were) Seminal Importance of Terminator 2," which deftly dissects James Cameron's blockbuster; and "Fictional Futures and the Conspicuously Young," an examination of television's effect on a new generation of writers.

A sweeping, exhilarating collection of the author's most emotionally immediate work, BOTH FLESH AND NOT spans almost 20 years of Wallace's career and reminds us why A.O. Scott called him "The Best Mind of His Generation" (New York Times).

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