Just Giblets

Clever as a gizzard

22nd August 2013
by Michael

Tusk!

Fleetwood Mac circa 1979I periodically go on a Fleetwood Mac jag, where I can’t get enough of their albums.  And not being a Stevie Nicks sycophant (although I do enjoy a lot of her work) but a Christine McVie fanatic, my Fleetwood Mac listening is not limited to their 1975 white album on, but goes back to the early 70’s, pre-Buckingham Nicks, when the likes of Bob Welch and Danny Kirwan were members.  My latest obsession from the last couple of weeks has been Tusk, their 1979 follow-up to the phenomenally successful, life-changing Rumours.

tuskTusk was a curious album.  There was no way the band was going to repeat the magic that emerged out of their personal break-ups and formed Rumours, number 10 on the list of best-selling albums of all time.  (You can see that list at http://www.celebritynetworth.com/articles/entertainment-articles/whats-the-biggest-selling-album-of-all-time/).  I’m sure the pressure from their label, Warner Bros. was pretty intense to do just that, but the band went in a completely different direction.  While it seems that Lindsey Buckingham was the driving force between the pseudo-punk, vaguely country tone of Tusk, certainly throughout all of his, the majority, contributions, his quirky production served Christine and Stevie’s compositions well.  Back in 1979, when Tusk was released, it was a rather shocking turn from Fleetwood Mac.  When listened to today, it seems even more incomprehensible juxtaposed with Rumours, but it works all the better for it.  The double album cost $1M to record, an exorbitant amount at the time, and with it only reaching #4 on the U.S. Billboard charts it is considered a disappointment.  Still, it did sell over 2M copies, earning a double platinum certification.

The title track was released as a single in advance of the album, and should have been a good indication that this was not going to be a Fleetwood Mac album like anything we’d expected.  From the jungle beat of the drums, the bizarre lyrics mumbled, then half-shrieked, and the overlay of the USC marching band, this was something visceral and different.  I was transfixed.  I ran around my high school (I was a senior) shouting Tusk!  I even included it as one of my quotes in the yearbook.

Now as I listen to Tusk some 34 years later, I am struck by how forward thinking it was, and how I think it might be Fleetwood Mac’s best album.  Okay, maybe not their best, but certainly Lindsey Buckingham does his best work ever with the band, or at least, most original.  Stevie Nicks turns in some pretty interesting work as well, and while Christine McVie has always been, in my opinion, the most reliable of the Mac songwriters, she doesn’t disappoint on Tusk.  While Tusk is arguably Lindsey’s album, it’s the way he pushes Christine and Stevie to the far reaches of what could be their comfort zones that really shines on Tusk.  (Although, part of me hopes that they all had fun trying out stuff they’d never usually perform – just take another listen to ‘The Ledge.’)

My current obsession is Christine McVie’s ‘Think About Me.’ It was a third single off the album, and is considered a minor hit for the band, only reaching #20 on the Billboard singles chart.  When I first heard ‘Think About Me’ it seemed a typical McVie single, reminiscent of ‘Don’t Stop’ and ‘Say You Love Me.’ Listening to it today, I am struck by the rock ‘n roll and punk influences, and the sparse, powerful mix of the song.  Lyrically, McVie injects a little wry sarcasm into the song, something she is not usually known for.  ‘Think About Me’ really features the power of McVie’s piano driving the song rhythmically forward, and Buckingham’s chunky guitar blends to create something truly rollicking.  Once again, McVie choses to alternate vocals with Buckingham, the former taking the lead on the vocals, the latter leading the bands trademark sublime harmonies on the choruses.  The vocal mix is perfect, with each of the unique voices easily picked out when they sing together.  Add to that the solid foundation of Fleetwood’s drums and McVie’s surprisingly flashy bass and it thrills me every time I listen to it.  McVie’s other contributions include the album opener, ‘Over & Over,’ the haunting ‘Brown Eyes,’ the gorgeously simple and heartfelt ‘Never Make Me Cry,’ the intricate confection ‘Honey Hi,’ and one of the best album closers ever, ‘Never Forget.’

Stevie Nicks’ most memorable song on Tusk for most people is ‘Sara,’ the second single from the album, and the highest charting, climbing to #7 on the Billboard charts.  I’ve always found ‘Sara’ to be rather uninspired, overlong and little boring.  The fourth single from Tusk was Stevie’s ‘Sisters of the Moon,’ a dark, pseudo-sequel to ‘Rhiannon.’  Nice enough, but pretty standard Stevie-fare.  Her other three compositions for Tusk are some of her finest work.  ‘Storms’ is a gently rumbling lament, beautifully constructed, and more complex than much of her Fleetwood Mac work.  ‘Angel’ is probably my favorite song Nicks wrote for Fleetwood Mac.  It’s got a bouncy, bluesy chord progression that makes it sound like a Christine McVie composition sung by Nicks.  The hauntingly lovely ‘Beautiful Child’ closes out Nicks’ contributions to Tusk.  Powered by McVie’s gentle piano and flush with the vocal interplay Fleetwood Mac is known for ‘Beautiful Child’ is a heartfelt ballad that highlights Stevie’s strength as a songwriter.  While Nicks’ songs are possibly the least affected by Tusk’s strangeness, Buckingham keeps the arrangements sparse and raw lending an urgency even to her most gentle numbers.

But it’s true, Tusk is really Lindsey Buckingham’s album, and his creativity and originality really show through on his songs.  Penning nine of Tusk’s twenty songs, Lindsey’s short, energetic numbers are like exclamatory punctuation marks sprinkled through the narrative.  His songs burst with heavy, distorted guitars and raucous vocal shrieks that convey frustration, anxiety and anger.  In some cases the bizarre lyrics seem interchangeable (and in fact, listening to the demo tracks included on the 25th anniversary release, snippets of lyrics are used on various songs).  The first of Lindsey’s songs you experience is the punk/country hybrid called ‘The Ledge.’  You might think, ‘he’s lost his mind, what the heck is this?’ but it’s a powerful locomotive of a song with the three vocalists harmonizing with wails and whispers the likes of which Fleetwood Mac had never explored before.  ‘Not That Funny’ is Buckingham’s punk response to Rumours’ ‘Never Going Back Again.’  It’s a bouncy pop ditty that leaps off the record with a high-pitched acoustic guidtar part that sticks in your head.  Along with ‘That’s Enough for Me’ and ‘I Know I’m Not Wrong’ these are three musical outbursts that highlight Lindsey’s new musical direction and his frantic energy.  ‘What Makes You Think You’re the One’ is almost traditional anchored by a pounding piano line that McVie once said made here wrists hurt after a day of recording.  ‘Save Me a Place’ and ‘That’s All for Everyone’ are lush, dreamy tracks that retain the quirky sensibilities of Lindsey’s current vision, but are less confrontational and again, use the trio’s vocal interplay to maximum affect.   Buckingham’s most beautiful number is yearning falsetto-powered ‘Walk a Thin Line.’  It highlights his adept vocals but it once again takes the expected Mac oohs and aahs and pushes them slightly left of center to remind us that we’re not listening to Rumours.

The first time I saw Fleetwood Mac live was during the Tusk tour at the Boston Garden.  It was a glorious show, and was the first of three (or maybe four times) that I was able to see them live.  I know they have had a bit of a return in the past few years, but without Christine McVie, it’s just not the same for me.  There was some sort of magic when those five made music together, and Christine McVie is one of my all time musical heroes.  I’m just glad the band has a long history of music to which I can return.

posted in Favorites, Fleetwood Mac, Music, Nostalgia | at 9:52 pm | 0 Comments
22nd April 2013
by Michael

What a Life!

Chrissy AmphlettTerribly saddened to hear this morning of the death of Chrissy Amphlett, former lead singer of the Australian band Divinyls.  She passed away in her home in New York City where she lived with her husband, former Divinyls drummer, Charlie Drayton, after suffering from breast cancer with which she was diagnosed in 2010 and MS in 2007.  She was only 53 years old.

Although best known in the States for her titillating Top 5 U.S. hit “I Touch Myself” in 1991, the Divinyls came into my life in 1983 with the U.S. release of their first album, Desperate.  I was introduced to Divinyls by my friend Doug, who was the one who often discovered these bands first, and I wasn’t thoroughly convinced right away.  Their first single, “Boys in Town” was a smash, Top 10 in Australia, but it only got a little airplay in the States.  The song that captivated me from their first album was the clever love song, “Science Fiction.”  With its witty lyrics and catchy pop hook, “Science Fiction” just gets in my head and keeps me singing.

Their follow-up album, “What a Life!” was arguably their breakout album on alternative radio in the States, led by their first charting single in the States, “Pleasure and Pain,” written by Holly Knight and Mike Chapman.  Every song on that album is a winner, but once again, it was their second single that had the biggest impact on me, the beautiful pop confection, “Sleeping Beauty.”  It’s a beautiful song with subversive lyrics, barely contained sexuality, and a feminist twist that was often found in Amphlett and McEntee’s songs.

Divinyls will be well remembered for their intense stage performances, and Chrissy’s wild antics and school girl outfits.  She hurled herself across the stage, pouting, sneering, careening into her partner-in-crime, guitarist Mark McEntee.  I was fortunate to see Divinyls perform life several times, from tiny clubs like Axis to much larger venues, and even got to go backstage to meet them after their self-titled album that spawned their biggest it.  I will cherish a photo I have with the band, and Chrissy running her fingers through my hair.  I like to say, the woman who touches herself was touching my hair.

They went on to record several more albums peaking with their afore-mentioned smash hit, “I Touch Myself.”  Chrissy also performed on stage and screen.  Her film debut was the Austrlian film MONKEY GRIP, released in 1982.  She had successful theatre experiences, playing Judy Garland in the touring company of “The Boy from Oz,” and playing the lead in “Blood Brothers.”

Chrissy announced her diagnosis of MS at the start of their 2007 tour, and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.  The last years of her life were difficult as her body failed her.  But her music will live on.  Divinyls were a major part of the soundtrack of my life in the 80′s.  Everytime I go back and listen to their catalog I thrill to the songwriting skills and musicianship found in their music.  Chrissy Amplett was a pioneer for women in rock, unafraid of her sexuality, rage, and vulnerability that found her a unique and ground-breaking place in the male-dominated industry.  I will remember her and her music as an integral part of my coming-of-age.

posted in 1980s, Divinyls, Music | at 7:51 am | 0 Comments
14th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – the Complete List

And now, here is my complete list of my favorite books read in 2012.

  1. Day for Night by Frederick Reiken
  2. May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes
  3. Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip
  4. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Blunt
  5. Among Others by Jo Walton
  6. Coral Glynn by Peter Cameron
  7. The Paternity Test by Michael Lowenthal
  8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  9. Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro
  10. All This Talk of Love by Christopher Castellani
  11. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  12. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
  13. The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen
  14. Elza’s Kitchen by Marc Fitten
  15. Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
  16. Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow

Two more books got a special mention:

  1. The First Time I Heard… Kate Bush, ed. by Scott Heim
  2. Kicking & Dreaming:  A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll by Ann & Nancy Wilson with Charles R. Cross

Then there were ten other books that I considered for my list of favorite books read in 2012, that for whatever reason, just didn’t make the cut.  I would say they are all good books and well worth reading.  These are listed in alphabetical order.

  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
  • Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray
  • Canada by Richard Ford
  • The Collective by Don Lee
  • Falling Backwards: A Memoir by Jann Arden
  • Fantastic Four: Season One by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and David Marquez
  • The First Warm Evening of the Year by Jamie Saul
  • Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
  • The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Eviston
  • Zone One by Colson Whitehead

Finally, five or six more books I read that just didn’t make the cut at all.  Not that they were bad, but they just weren’t in the league of the other books I’d read.  There were really only a couple of books that I either actively didn’t like, or that disappointed me.  I will not be listing these books here.  Ask me privately if you want to know what they were.

posted in 2012, Books, Year-end lists | at 7:56 am | 0 Comments
13th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #1

My favorite book read in 2012 was published in 2010, and recommended to me by my dear friend Daniel Goldin, owner of Boswell Book Company, an independent bookstore in Milwaukee.  Daniel is one of the best recommenders of books around, and he has a very active blog.  When Daniel mentioned Day for Night, I jotted it down on my list of books to be read, but by the time I was looking for something to read and stumbled over that title, I couldn’t remember anything he said about it.  Still, trusting Daniel’s book recommendations, coupled with the fact that the author lived in the Boston area, I decided to give it a try.  I was blown away.  So superb, and a debut too!  I am eagerly awaiting Frederick Reiken’s next novel.

Day for Night#1 – Day for Night by Frederick Reiken

Near the end of Frederick Reiken’s powerful novel Day for Night, one character says of another, “… if I thought hard enough, I’d come to understand her purpose.” With Reiken’s novel, I feel the opposite. The harder you ponder and try to make all the many story threads come together, the more elusive it all becomes. Yet when you take a step back and don’t try so hard to figure it out, it all flows and comes together like elegant artwork or music. In Day for Night, each of the ten chapters is told from the point-of-view of a different character. They are structured like individual short stories, yet all the stories are linked in some way, and they all build a larger tapestry. With topics as far ranging as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, marine biology, the Nazi’s persecution of the Jews, and environmental sensitivity syndrome, and a cast of characters that span continents and generations, Day for Night has mystery, romance, history, adventure… even a little science fiction when looked at from a certain angle. It’s the kind of tale that sticks with you for hours or days after you’ve read it, and haunts you in the best of all possible ways. I loved it.

posted in 2012, Authors, Books, Lists, Year-end lists | at 12:22 pm | 0 Comments
12th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #2

A new book by A.M. Homes is always an event in the Colford household.  Homes is one of the few authors that both Scot and I love and read together.  Homes is the author of six novels, two short story collections, a memoir, a travel memoir.  She adapted her own novel for teens, Jack, as a teleplay.    Her celebrated collection of short stories, The Safety of Objects was adapted to the screen by Rose Troche.  Her latest novel is a twisted literary odyssey that is, while being in the runner-up position for best book I read in 2012, is definitely my favorite book published in 2012 that I read.

May We Be Forgiven#2 – May We Be Forgiven by A.M. Homes

A.M. Homes has created something astounding with May We Be Forgiven. This modern tale of redemption followed Harold Silver, a man on the outside looking in, who is forced to stop watching and start participating, when his older brother George comes unwound and becomes responsible for a series of deaths. Harold suddenly finds himself responsible for the care of George’s two children, his home, his pets, and getting his own life back on track. But before he can do any of that, he must descend into the surreal, rhythms of a life that buffets him around from one unsettling experience to the next. I loved this book. It starts off with a series of shocking events, then peels back the facade of the upper middle-class to expose some pretty bizarre, and sometimes ugly behavior. Readers will be left alternately disturbed and chuckling by Homes’ straight-forward writing style married to her startling circumstances. Characters frequently misunderstand each other to comic or tragic effect. But somewhere along the way, with sublime subtlety, Homes starts to turn things around, and allow George to piece his life back together. As the title may suggest, this is a powerful, and beautifully rendered story of forgiveness.

posted in 2012, Authors, Books, Lists, Year-end lists | at 11:16 am | 0 Comments
10th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #’s 3 & 4

A debut novel and a collection of previously printed short stories — not what I was expecting for my third and fourth favorite books read in 2012!

Tell the Wolves I'm Home#4 – Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Carol Rifka Brunt has crafted a beautifully, sad, coming-of-age tale about fourteen-year-old June Elbus, her older sister Greta, and her Uncle Finn. Set in the early 1980′s, June’s world is rocked when her beloved Uncle dies of complications from AIDS. Recent changes in her relationship with Greta have made June believe that Finn was truly the only person to understand her. Enter the mysterious Toby, much maligned by the rest of her family, June finds in Toby a potential kindred spirit and someone from whom she can at the very least, learn more about Finn’s life.

Brunt masterfully negotiates the twists and turns of adolescence, while adding an additional layer of adult, emotional trauma in a story that is both powerful and incredibly moving. It also demonstrates just how far we’ve come as a society since the early 80′s, with regard to AIDS. Yet at the same time, some of the themes Brunt explores would still be scandalous in today’s world, which is a shame. This is a terrific debut novel, and I highly recommend it.

Wonders of the Invisible World#3 – Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip

I was thrilled when I found out there was a new Patricia McKillip book recently released; then mildly disappointed when I found out it was a collection of previously published short stories. Not that I had read any of the stories yet, but generally, I enjoy McKillip’s novels more than her short stories.

Much to my surprise, the stories in Wonders of the Invisible World were truly wonders, and rose to the heights of some of McKillip’s best writing. This gifted artist paints literary landscapes across my heart and mind whether the setting be Puritan New England, a mysterious village in the woods, or an underwater realm. She snaps characters to life with the turn of a phrase, a phrase that seems familiar in the fantasy context, yet is at once strikingly original.

There is a lot of water imagery in this collection, which delighted me. I can’t recall many of her novels featuring the magic of water, and she writes it beautifully. I would love to see an entire novel devoted to the characters and setting of ‘Knight of the Well,’ or ‘The Kelpie.’

McKillip doesn’t just stick with fantasy in this collection either, but dips her hand into science fiction, as with the time travelling researcher in the title story, ‘Wonders of the Invisible World.’

It was nice to see some of McKillip’s less seen humor creep into several of these stories. While her creation and depiction of fantasy realms is the strongest weapon in her literary arsenal, this collection shows off the prodigious talent in her juxtaposition of fantasy with the modern world. And as is now to be expected, her stellar command of language shines through in this magnificent collection.

posted in 2012, Authors, Books, Fantasy, Lists, Year-end lists | at 9:19 pm | 0 Comments
9th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #’s 5 & 6

Here is a pair of books that are getting or have gotten some acclaim already.  Peter Cameron’s Coral Glynn has been a top pick of the year on several authors’ lists, and Jo Walton’s Among Others has won the Nebula Award for Best Novel 2011, and the Hugo Award for Best Novel 2012.  

Coral Glynn#6 – Coral Glynn by Peter Cameron

Peter Cameron has crafted an exquisite book about socially awkward people living in England in the 1950′s. Reminiscent of the social examinations of the Bronte sisters, Coral Glynn reveals the solitary life of a shy, young woman working as a visiting nurse. When she suddenly finds herself married and suspected of a hideous crime, she flees to London and unwittingly finds the path to eventual happiness. Cameron’s exquisite writing captures the tone and style of another era.  Coral is a fascinating character, so anachronistic in some ways, yet perfectly drawn for this book with its timeframe firmly set in a certain era, yet with a feel that is almost timeless.  Although more stylistic, Coral Glynn is a nice match with Margot Livesey’s The Flight of Gemma Hardy, which was my #7 favorite book read in 2011.

 

 

Among Others#5 – Among Others by Jo Walton

Beautifully written, realistic fantasy about a teen-aged girl imbued with magic who talks with fairies, struggles against her evil-witch mother, endures the trials of assimilating into a new, private, girls, boarding school, and finds salvation in the world of books. Jo Walton balances the coming-of-age of a young woman with the mystical world of fairies in Wales and England.  Walton, perhaps through the use of the diary format where protagonist Mori reveals all her innermost thoughts and feelings, manages to ground this story so firmly in reality, even as she writes about wild magic running through the land, and Mori talking to fairies.  Perhaps most remarkable is the way she weaves in a wealth of books, especially science fiction in delightfully compelling ways. And her use of libraries and librarians is exemplary! Where else will you find the quote, “Interlibrary Loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization.”?

posted in 2012, Authors, Books, Lists, Year-end lists | at 7:58 am | 0 Comments
8th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #’s 7 & 8

It’s nerve-wracking being friends with published authors.  I always worry I’m not going to like their books!  Fortunately, that rarely happens, and I have found being completely honest usually serves very well.  This pair of books both took me by surprise.  One I didn’t expect to like, and the other I grew to like more and more after I completed it and time passed.

The Night Circus

#8 - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I was a slow convert despite the hype. Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus is an exquisitely crafted fantasy/romance/historical mash-up that, like the circus it describes, contains ever-increasing wonders as each page turns. Celia and Marco are bound by their father/mentor respectively to spend much of their lives preparing for, then competing in a mystical challenge. This particular challenge has been repeated for centuries with very little variance in

the outcome: one participant wins, the other is no more. The problem is, Celia and Marco meet and fall in love, despite the challenge, which they are bound to and upon which they are unable to turn their backs.

This bizarre challenge/romance takes place against the backdrop of Le Cirque des Rêves a glorious circus that appears in different cities during the cover of darkness and is only open at night. Morgenstern’s debut is intricately layered and filled with a rich and fascinating cast of characters. But best of all, she manages to continuously convey the wonder of the magical circus tents throughout at 400-page book, without repeating herself, or resorting to cliche. It’s a magnificent effort, and a joy to read.

The Paternity Test#7 – The Paternity Test by Michael Lowenthal

For a novel, that on the one hand, appears as a slightly sudsy melodrama about a gay couple desiring a child, Michael Lowenthal’s The Paternity Test challenged me the way few books do.  Here is my best attempt to convey the complexity of emotions I felt throughout my reading it. At first The Paternity Test seemed like it was going to be a fairly straight-forward story; gay couple, together for a while and facing a turning point, decide to leave the big city, move to Cape Cod and have a child by using a surrogate. There would be the typical dramatic moments exploring issues such as having a child to save a relationship; difficulty with the surrogate, that kind of thing. In fact, I wasn’t all that interested in the subject matter, and wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it. But when you get an advanced copy from the author himself, you make a point of reading it. 

The first thing I noticed was how compelling it was. I couldn’t put the book down and read it in record time. That said, it was a very tough read for me, stirring up all sorts of conflicting emotions. For much of the book I wasn’t sure I was enjoying it, and had particular trouble with the lead character, Pat. Often I was worried about the direction the book was headed in. Sometimes I had the distinct feeling that I was reading a novelization of “Days of our Lives.” But by the end of the book, I was excited by the journey it took me on, the very fact that I was all over the place emotionally with the characters, yet ultimately having it be a really satisfying reading experience for me. Like parenthood, like relationships, like family, there is nothing simple about The Paternity Test; there are ups and downs, moments of melodrama, laughter, tears, anger… all the things that make a wonderful novel.

 

 

7th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #’s 9 & 10

All of the books on this list are great, but it’s a sure sign of a bumper crop year when a new Alice Munro is down at #9!

#10 – All This Talk of Love by Christopher Castellani

Christopher Castellani’s third novel is a beautifully evocative examination of a family greatly affected by a past tragedy and their ethnic culture. Antonio and Maddalena Grasso came to America from Santa Cecila, Italy fifty years ago. Together they had three children, but lost one tragically years ago. Now their remaining children and grandchildren have each formed a family construct based on their individual experiences, while Antonio and Maddalena each deal with their personal grief in solitary ways.

The novel examines the complicated ways people love, as stated in the book, from the heart, from the head and from the soul. With Maddalena, who was in love with another boy before Antonio and Maddalena’s father arranged their marriage, love is compartmentalized, coupled with a need to cut herself off completely from her heritage, ignoring letters and calls to her family back in Italy. When her daughter Prima tries to arrange a trip for the entire family to travel back to Santa Cecila, all are taken aback by the ferocity of Maddalena’s refusal. Youngest son Frankie has moved from the family’s Delaware roots to write his thesis at Boston College. He is a lost soul, eschewing maturity for a dysfunctional sexual relationship with his adviser, and a relationship with his mother that can’t move past childhood.

Couple all of these mini family dramas with Maddalena’s health challenges and you’d think All This Talk of Love would echo the soap opera that Frankie and Maddalena discuss every day. But Castellani’s exploration lifts the story above melodramatics and creates flawed and real characters struggling with long ago grief and the complicated love of family.

#9 – Dear Life: Stories by Alice Munro

Alice Munro, the master of the modern short story, continues to show her prodigious talent in her latest collection entitled Dear Life. Each story illuminates a life at a pivotal moment and who this moment affects its subject. Dear Life also includes a series of four memories from the author life; structured as short stories, they are mini-memoirs, colored by memory and creativity, yet illuminating the way each of her stories are.

Many of the stories in Dear Life are set in the post WWII era of Canada, and the memory of the way and the Depression infuse them. One story in particular, “Leaving Maverley,” highlights the power of Munro’s storytelling, where with a simple sentence; a reflection of what has gone on before, Munro is able to bring the reader to tears.

 

6th January 2013
by Michael

Favorite Books Read in 2012 – #’s 12 & 11

It really hit me as I prepared to write this blog entry, the high quality of writing and creativity in the books I read this year, because the fact that these two books didn’t crack my top 10 astounds me.  This is a pair of outstanding reads, beautifully written, imaginative, emotionally moving, and powerful.  What is perhaps even more remarkable is that both of these exquisite novels are debuts.  Congratulations to both talented authors.

#12 – The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

M.L. Stedman’s debut novel tells an emotional tale of loss, love, and lies, set on the isolated western coast of Australia in the early 1900′s. Tom Sherbourne is a decorated war hero trying to reconcile his role during the war, and his own difficult childhood. He takes an isolating job as a lighthouse keeper on the remote island of Janus Rock, but that doesn’t prevent him from meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Isabel. The two share a powerful bond and set up life on Janus Rock, but after three miscarriages and the doubtful prospect of having a child of their own, Isabel is consumed with grief. When a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a newborn baby, Isabel sees this as a sign from God that she should raise this little girl as her own, despite the fact that there is no sign of a mother. The choices Isabel and Tom make a difficult and will have consequences in their future that will shatter several lives. Stedman’s writing is adept in describing the isolation and beauty of Janus Rock, the power of the ocean, the grace and beauty of the lighthouse, and the complex ethical and emotional issues that emerge from the Sherbourne’s actions. The Light Between Oceans reminded me of my favorite film from 2011 called A SEPARATION (from Iran). The similarities lie in the fact that good people are forced to make decisions for which there is no good result, and we understand and even empathize with each decision made, knowing that the end result will be painful and devastating for all involved. This is a powerful read.

#11 – The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Profoundly, beautiful coming-of-age story set to a slow, apocalyptic end-of-the world tale. When the residents of a southern Californian suburb first hear that the earth’s rotation is slowing, there is a brief panic, but human beings being the adaptable lot they are, soon things fall into step again, with some minor tweaks. But as the earth’s rotation continues to slow, and more, serious consequences begin to emerge, 12-year-old Julia, and others, begin to understand that nothing will be the same again. Yet even as the human race begins its presumed road to extinction, Julia must cope with the realities of being a young teen, including buying her first bra, negotiating the whimsical nature of friendship, and falling in love for the first time. Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel is heart-rending in its tragic inevitability, yet hopeful in the way Julia move though adolescence into adulthood.

posted in 2012, Authors, Books, Movies, Reviews, Year-end lists | at 11:20 am | 0 Comments
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