Reader's Link - September 2013 Staff Picks Archive


The land

All the Land to Hold Us

Title: All the Land to Hold Us
By: Rick Bass

It's all about the land.

This odd, compelling, but challenging book is worth the effort. Using his own background in geology, Bass makes vibrant the desert lands of West Texas--a region of intense heat and endless sand. I found myself keeping a bottle of water within hand's reach while reading this novel. A small cast of characters pass in a dreamlike trance through an environment that leaches out their hopes, and, at times, humanity. They plunder the endless sand for oil, for salt, for skulls, for fossils and dessicated historical artifacts abandoned by passersby of another time; and, finally, for water. Driven also by love, both sexual and familial, the protagonists evolve through the course of the book, becoming more recognizable and human as the landscape changes to different venues.

Bass dives directly into issues of today: oil consumption, water purity, and animal cruelty, the latter via the iconic figure of an escaped circus elephant. In the end, through a reprise of early characters and introduction of colorful new ones, including a traveling troupe of war-maimed Vietnamese silk weavers, we can glimpse the hope he envisions for a purer time when man is more in tune with his environment.

This would make a great book discussion choice.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted by libwolf on Sept. 29, 2013 at 9:05 a.m.
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A story about how stories become stories

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

Title: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ
By: Philip Pullman

Phillip Pullman’s retelling of the life of Jesus attracted hate mail along with both positive and negative reviews. I found the premise of the book surprising, but came to realize how neatly it provided an analogy of possible differences between the historical man Jesus and the Christ memorialized and mythologized during successive epochs of the Church. Since Christianity is a living world religion, I noticed it was difficult for me to think of Jesus through the lens of mythology, unlike Greek and other ancient or at least distant mythologies/religions. Reading the book as a metaphor rather than an alternate history, I noticed how skillfully the author portrays human tendencies. The pure, idealistic, and loving attitude towards life struggles with the dogmatic, rule-bound, and ultimately selfish outlook. Pullman imagines how Jesus's original words might have been edited and reinterpreted so he can tell us "a story about how stories become stories."

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Posted by April on Sept. 26, 2013 at 8:45 a.m.
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Tragicomic

Are You My Mother? a comic drama

Title: Are You My Mother? a comic drama
By: Alison Bechdel

Are You My Mother?

What an amazing find! I picked up this graphic narrative because the title evokes the children’s book classic Are You My Mother? in which a baby bird wanders around questioning everyone it meets. Bechdel’s cover art -- a vanity, makeup, jewelry -- is our first cue this will be an adult treatment of the question.

Bechdel digs into her relationship with her mother, sharing dreams, insights from therapy, and memories. She has a superb knack for synthesizing and presenting psychological concepts so clearly and concisely that before you know it you are right back into the flow of the story. The poignancy of her writing is matched by the sensitivity of her graphic illustrations.

Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic

After being wowed by Are You My Mother? I had to read this earlier graphic narrative about Bechdel’s father. In her skillful way, she uses characters and scenes from classic literature to illustrate various troubling or puzzling passages of her family’s life. Authors mentioned include Proust, Camus, and Fitzgerald. Bechdel’s book lives up to its title; her father runs a Fun(eral) Home and meets a tragic end. The stories and images used to evoke Bechdel’s emotional life combine to make this graphic memoir a gripping experience.

View similarly tagged posts: biography,graphic novel
Posted by April on Sept. 21, 2013 at 8:35 a.m.
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Evergreen

Green thoughts: a writer in the garden

Title: Green thoughts: a writer in the garden
By: Eleanor Perényi

"Read this." "I'm not a gardener." "Read it anyway."
"Read this." "I’m a California gardener, and she lived in Connecticut." "Read it anyway."
"Read this." "Why?” “Because it's delightful!"

Witty, elegant, earthy; pragmatic, romantic, fantastic: Perényi runs the gamut. Keep this by your bedside for a nightly nip, or gulp it down in a single sitting. It’ll go to your head like champagne.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction
Posted by curious on Sept. 1, 2013 at 2:19 p.m.
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