wOw's Question of the Week: What book are you recommending this summer? What new book can't you wait to read next?
What book are you recommending this summer? What new book can’t you wait to read next?
Joan Juliet Buck
I was given The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal, a gift from the discerning, sainted Allegra Huston when she stayed with me two weeks ago so we could have a reading of her very funny screenplay “Good Luck Mr. Gorski” at the Greenhouse.
De Waal is a British potter whose ancestor Charles Ephrussi was a member of the Jewish banking family that formed the golden spine of the new rich in 19th-century France. Ephrussi’s collection of netsukes – those ivory carvings that are hung in Obi sashes – incited this enormous, rich, detailed history of collecting, of the trend called Japonisme, of 19th-century France – a deep meditation on things and treasures, family and culture, desire and fate. It’s mesmerizing.
Other than that I’m reading research for my new play. And hoping to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, though Nora Ephron’s funny spoof in this week’s New Yorker makes it seem like it might be more work than play …
I am reading – like everyone – the Stieg Larsson trilogy. I’m addicted. We’re in glorious St. Barbara but I don’t want to leave the house, or fall sleep at night – so caught up in the web of the books am I …
I always recommend Love in the Time of Cholera.
Gals – the book I’m reading now and loving is Mr. Peanut. It’s a first novel from a wonderful, witty, highly sharp writer and it is a black comedy that opens with a husband murdering his wife of 13 years with a can of peanuts. He doesn’t club her with the can, guys, he makes it look like suicide since she is severely allergic. I’m only 70 pages in but it reads like a dream. A dark one. I also bought today David Mitchell’s next novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which got fantastic reviews (as did Mr. Peanut). I hope to get through it because this guy is a brilliant writer but his last masterpiece, Cloud Atlas, I loved but was daunted by, as it was six novellas in one and my brain said, Are you KIDDING??!! And I admit this sheepishly but I was one of the first to read the Stieg Larsson trilogy and was absolutely engrossed by them. Especially the first and third of the three. Being half-Swedish, the Stockholm setting resonated with me, then this completely original, quirky, brilliant character, Lisbeth Salander, is very compelling. Larsson puts the Socialist utopia of Sweden in the toilet and offers theories on the assassination of Olof Palme, which intrigue. I was sorry the trilogy ended.
And since JJ Buck called Nora Ephron’s New Yorker parody of Girl With The … to our attention, I have read it and its umlauts and it is brilliant and, of course, exactly on the mark. Even down to the smile or not to smile at the end. Nora always gets it before anyone else. Except maybe Joan Juliet. I’m going now. And it’s nice to be back with you guys again. Enjoy the summer.
I chewed my way through all three of Stieg Larsson’s Girl books (the last in less than three days because I was prepping for a colonoscopy – lots of downtime). I am reading Justin Cronin’s The Passage. It’s holding my attention but I’m not ready to recommend it quite yet. (I saw “American Idiot” last week, though. That I’d heartily recommend – particularly if you liked “Spring Awakening.”)
Candy, I too am reading Adam Ross’s Mr. Peanut when I can and loving it. What an inventive, deep-thinking writer to add to our lives! And what intriguing and scary views on marriage. But worth every goose bump. However, I am in love with a book called Extraordinary Knowing: Science, Skepticism and the Inexplicable Powers of the Human Mind by Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer – a courageous revealing of the inexplicable phenomena in many people’s lives including many of the world’s leading neuroscientists, university heads and military heads who allowed her to write about those experiences and to use their names. An astonishing book that you want to keep close by, next to your bed probably, to read, reread and think about every quiet moment you may get.
My “light” reading is an unusual biography of the great show-business entertainer, Kay Thompson, coming in November from Simon & Schuster and written by Sam Irvin.
Miss Thompson was the secret weapon of moviemakers back in the ’40s as mentor, teacher, coach and gadfly to the singing/dancing artists of MGM and elsewhere. She started her own nightclub act and people like Clark Gable and Lana Turner sat in thrall as she blasted Hollywood with raw, fresh singing-dancing talent the likes of which no one has seen before or after. She went on to imitate Vogue’s Diana Vreeland in “Funny Face” – stealing the movie from Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn.
Kay and the four Williams Bros became an institution and her love affair with Andy became history. Later in life she created Eloise at the Plaza and had a second career. She was a seminal figure in 40s-plus entertainment, influenced Judy Garland and all the rest and died shortly before 2000. Wait for this one; it’s dynamite!
My other big reading experience is ongoing. It’s the old Modern Library version of The Medicis by G. F. Young. This tells us how this famous family made the Renaissance happen in Florence and participated in sending popes (both good and bad) to the Vatican before, during and after the tumultuous years of the Protestant Reformation, the sack of Rome and other charming cultural and warlike happenings that shaped the world as we have learned of it since the 16th century. Author Young thinks in these pages that the Medicis, far from being villains, shaped the world to come.
Joan Ganz Cooney
I’m about to start The Flight of the Intellectuals by Paul Berman, which takes on the Muslim religion and has caused a lot of arguments at dinner tables. Next The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which I seem to have missed, along with the next two in the trilogy.