Fluff, You’re Looking Mighty Fine These Days

I have extolled the virtues of fluff on numerous occasions. Now, more than ever, fluff is my literary drug of choice. I hate to admit this, but I just don’t have the time or the brain power to handle true literature (pronounced like this, of course).

In the past couple months, I have checked out the following books from the library . . . and returned them all unfinished:

imgres-1 Swing Time by Zadie Smith (I really gave this one its due, too. I read about 250 pages before giving up. I wanted to like it, but it just dragged on and on and didn’t get anywhere. The characters were unconvincing, shallowly drawn, a bit stereotypical, and not very likable. Sad.)

imgresMoonglow by Michael Chabon (On the other hand, I did not give this one a fair shake. I read maybe 50 pages before I had to return it to the library. It started out fine, but it obviously didn’t grip me. I mean, 50 pages in three weeks? Sad, sad.)

imgres-4Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (OK, this one I really don’t understand. It’s a National Book Award winner, and people whose opinions on books I respect have raved about it. But I wasn’t a fan. It started pretty strong with some striking—albeit gruesome—imagery . . . but then it faltered. Once they hit Baltimore, things came to a screeching halt. I was too bored to read any more. Oh, and the underground railroad as a real-deal train? I just found that a bit too trite. Sad, sad, sad.)

I used to be one of those people who COULD NOT abandon a book midway. I was compelled to finish even the worst novels. But now? Nope, nope, nope. I ain’t got time for that. Unless you’re the best book I’ve read in ages (see, e.g., Homegoing) or super easy/super fun/super fluffy stuff, chances are, I’m not going to read you right now. I only have so much free time, and I’m trying to make my way through Gilmore Girls, thank you very much.

Despite this new view on reading (and my radio silence on the blog), I have been reading. And here’s proof: Continue reading

Still Searching for Some Good Light Reading . . .

After the string of get-me-down books that I wrote about in my last post, I was determined to treat myself to some lighter, fluffier, more enjoyable fare. I managed to read two books that were definitely lighter and fluffier (hooray!) but weren’t very good (boo!). I also read a kids’ book about Japanese internment, which (although pretty good) was decidedly not light, not fluffy, and not enjoyable. So, my quest for good fluff continues. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

23604559My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry 
Fredrik Backman
June 16, 2015
384 pages

When I was little, my dad used to make up stories for me. My favorites featured “Meetah, the Cheetah.” Every story was basically the same: they began with an adorable little girl (who looked remarkably similar to me, of course) calmly traipsing through the jungle. Her journeys were generally uneventful . . . until the end. The stories always concluded with a surprise encounter between girl and cheetah. And they always culminated with my father yelling (when I least expected it to ensure the loudest screams and giggles of surprise and delight): “I’m Meetah, the Cheetah, and I’m gonna eat ya!”

Stories told to little kids can serve many purposes. They can elicit sheer, unadulterated joy (as the “Meetah, the Cheetah” tales did every time). They can expand kids’ vocabularies. They can encourage creativity and imagination. They can serve as memorable bonding moments. And, if the storyteller is especially skilled, they can serve as the secret vehicles for important life lessons.

The bedtime stories that Elsa’s grandmother, the titular grandmother in Fredrik Backman’s new book, told her about the Land-of-Almost-Awake did all of the above. The stories featured magical creatures like the sea-angel and a monster called Wolfheart and huge furry creatures called wurses. Sometimes, her grandmother told the stories in a secret language that she taught Elsa years ago. Continue reading

A Man Called Ove

18774964A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman
Published July 15, 2014
352 pages

When my husband and I moved into our new house a couple years ago, we took a big risk. Our tiny neighborhood of ten lots was brand new (a developer had purchased one huge lot and subdivided it into a neighborhood of ten lots). Only four houses were built at the time, and there were no residents yet. We loved the house. And we loved the idea of a small, cozy neighborhood on a quiet cul-de-sac.

But we had some concerns. What if all our neighbors turned out to be assholes? What if they were grumpy old curmudgeons who insisted on bickering constantly over boundary lines? What if we hated them all?

In the end, we took a leap of faith and bought the house. And, now that all ten houses have been built and occupied, we realize that we got very lucky. We know and like all of our neighbors (in fact, several neighbors have become really good friends). We have annual neighborhood block parties and progressive dinner parties. We go to brunch and lunch and yoga together. We have a happy little community plucked from a bygone era. And we love it.

Of course, I count my lucky stars. Because I know that, just as easily, it could have been a nightmare. We could have gotten a neighbor like Ove. Ove is fifty-nine years old (but acts like he’s about eighty-nine) and ridiculously set in his ways. Every morning at quarter to six, he takes it upon himself to patrol the neighborhood. He makes sure that no unidentified cars have been parked in the neighborhood lot for more than twenty-four hours (and, if they have, he gets them towed). He makes sure no bikes have been left out unattended. He makes sure that all signs (most of which he has erected) are being followed. He is a stickler for the rules, even if the rules are stupid. Continue reading