Posted by: hannah jo | January 8, 2009

What I’m Reading Now

It’s kind of weird that I don’t write here very often about the books I’m reading. You’d think that a librarian — especially a former readers advisory librarian — would just go on and on about what she’s reading. And, sometimes I do in real life or in other places, but not here very often. I’m not sure why that is, but I’ll make more of an effort to post here about what I’m reading in the coming year. (Wait — was that a resolution? Or, is it too late for that now that we’re a week into the new year?) 

revroad2004So far, 2009 is treating me very well reading-wise (not so well in several other ways, but I’ll save all of that for another post or, you know, when I’M NO LONGER EMPLOYED, if you know what I mean). I started off by reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Technically, I started it on the last day of 2008, so I can add it to either my 2008 list or 2009 list of books read. I think I’ll put it on my 2008 list so I can include it on my “Top Ten Books of 2008” list. Yes, it was that good.

Andy bought me Revolutionary Road as a Christmas gift a few years ago, after I first became a librarian, because I kept hearing from my co-workers that it was a book I would like. This was well before I had heard anything about plans for a movie version. It just kept getting described as a “Hannah book” because of its exquisite writing, its extremely well-drawn characters, and its severely bleak story. I love all of those qualities in a book. If you set it at a university and throw in an alcoholic middle-aged man who teaches English, I’m in reading nirvana.

Revolutionary Road was originally published in 1961 and tells the story of a youngish married couple — Frank and April Wheeler — who live in a Connecticut suburb in the mid 1950s. They drink a lot, they smoke a lot, and they don’t quite get how to be parents to their two small children. Their marriage is a mess because each of them as individuals is a mess. What makes this book so amazing is the brutally honest portrait of these two sad people — their inner thoughts, their interior observations about each other and themselves and everyone around them, the way they prepare what they’re going to say to each other later, their despair.

I mentioned on Goodreads that images from the TV show Mad Men kept running through my head as I read this book, especially because of Frank’s work setting and all the drinking, but mostly because how marginalized women were back then. I don’t know if I’ll go see the movie or not. Somehow it feels like seeing the movie will tarnish my experience of reading the book, but maybe I’m being too protective. I’m curious, but I’m also not in any rush. I want to keep thinking about this story in book form, before movie images battle to share that limited brain space.

ttgsn_covermainMy other form of reading nirvana is the rock music memoir. And, thanks to my job, I stumbled upon a new one a few days ago and now I am loving it. It’s Things the Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett. He’s the guy who formed a band/music project called EELS. Sometimes he goes by E. His life story is something else. His dad was a genius quantum physicist who invented the theory of parallel universes. His mother and sister were “troubled”. All of them died in tragic ways. E’s book is a very straightforward, almost simple, presentation of his life so far. He explains how and why he became a musician. He ponders how weird his family was. He tries to figure out what matters to him.

I had no idea what E looked like so I Googled him and then one click led to another like it always does on the Web and I found myself watching a fascinating documentaryabout E’s attempt to find out who his father was and what his famous theory meant. I didn’t watch the whole thing because it’s in 10-minute chunks on YouTube and my life is just too full at the moment to watch YouTube videos, even if they’re about rock musicians and physics, but I will go back and watch the rest after I finish reading the book. And then I’ll listen to a bunch of EELS music. And then it will be time to obsess over a new book. Awesome!

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