I took a break from slogging my way though nonfiction and a bunch of other things, like writing (!), and read Emergency Contact Mary H.K. Choi. This was prompted by my need to read something that was 1. just going to be fun and also bring me some joy from the frustration I’d been experiencing at the gym (note: I read this over the summer when things were still bad, more on later) and 2. This passage that I saw posted somewhere on Twitter right after it came out.
I recently finished reading Donna Tart’s The Goldfinch. The book follows the life of Theo Decker as he reflects on the event that changed the course of his life and the fallout from the choice that was made immediately afterwards. While reading this book, I learned a new word, bildungsroman, which is a coming of age story that follows the protagonist from childhood to adulthood. I only learned this because I got a little impatient while reading and wanted to see what happened at the end. This is probably one of my worst habits and I really can’t help it. I even did this while reading the last Harry Potter book. I’m a monster, I know.
Anyhow, back to The Goldfinch! The story was a little slow moving and meandering and the longest book I’ve read in a while at 771 pages but I really enjoyed it! I also liked it a lot better than the last Donna Tart book I read, The Secret History, which wasn’t bad but it was just weird and a little a creepy. A fact that was further bolstered by one of my best friends having gone to Bennington College, the school that Hampden College seems to be based on. Alright, alright, back to The Goldfinch for reals. The story opens with Theo at what is the end of story, looking back at the linchpin that leads to that moment. The even that sets everything in motion is a terrorist attack the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, shortly after the 9/11. Theo’s mother is killed in the attack and he walks away with a rare surviving painting by Fabritius, a student of Rembrandt. The painting is the titular goldfinch and throughout the story serves as a token that links Theo to the memory of his mother.
After the accident Theo is taken in by the wealthy family of one his friends until his estranged father shows up and whisks him away to Vegas. While in Vegas he is befriended by Boris, another motherless boy. Together they scrap together a hardscrabble existence fueled by parental neglect, drugs, and all the weirdness that comes with adolescence. I don’t want to give much more way but at its, heart The Goldfinch is a story of friendship and what it means to be good and what role being good plays in one’s destiny. The last few pages were favorite and worth the slow start. Oddly enough, I ended up watching Tulip Fever which is set in the time that Fabritius created the painting and it was a nice juxtaposition for the contrast that made the The Goldfinch so special. The painting is atypical of the paintings coming from the Dutch Masters during that time. It is simple and bright whereas Rembrandt and Vermeer’s painting were dark and moody.
This book as also renewed my interested in finishing Walden. It is assigned reading for the boys while they’re in high school but that is a post for another time.
Ever since reading Sirens of Titan, I’ve been meaning to read more Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse-Five is on my list and would have been the logical next step but last time I was at my local used bookseller’s and the only Vonnegut book available was A Man Without A Country. I finished it last night and no regrets! It’s not really a novel so much as it’s Vonnegut’s reflections on life and the political climate at the time. He was writing in 2004 and commenting on the Bush administration, such simpler and gentler times! I honestly never thought I would look back on that presidency in that way and can’t imagine what he would have to say.
I’m not sure I have much else to say besides go read the book. I feel like I am the better for it and it just has lots of great advice and me a little misty. Here is one of many of my favorite quotes:
“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what it is.”
I just finished reading Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. One of my friends lent it to me after I was talking about the weird supernatural elements in A Time of Torment. This eventually led to talking about books we read as kids and she suggested this one, which follows the three Drew siblings on their summer vacation to Cornwall and they discover a map that leads to Holy Grail.
It took me a long time to read because it never pulled me in. Maybe if I had read it as kid or teen it might have had more appeal but the plot and characters didn’t come across as very developed, which is weird because the story of three kids following a map to find the Holy Grail while being pursued by the forces of evil seems like an exciting plot but I guess this story just wasn’t for me. I am glad I finished it because not finishing a book always bothers me. I think there are maybe four books that I can remember not finishing: Blackout, Gypsy Rizka, and A Farewell to Arms. I don’t remember why I didn’t finish Gypsy Rizka. Blackout is about a plane that is taken hostage and I was probably too young to be reading and got too stressed out. I still might have it somewhere. I didn’t finish A Farewell to Arms because I had a book report coming up and was running out time.
I had been working on Walden since last October and haven’t finished. I’m not counting this one since it was a reread. I probably do need to go back and try to finish or at least revisit because the first chapter is my favorite and it makes more sense at 27 than at 16.
As usual, some time ago, I finished up reading a book. Eventually I hope I will get better about posting things and actually figuring out where I want to go in the venture but in the meantime, my thoughts on John Connolly’s A Time of Torment. I’ve been a fan of Connolly’s since discovering The Book of Lost Things at a used book sale in my home town. I’m due for a reread on that so eventually, hopefully, you’ll have something on that.
A Time of Torment is one of the more recent installments of Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels. This book follows Parker on his investigation into the framing of a local hero in Main who believes the people that framed him are still after him. The investigation leads Parker and his friends, Angel and Louis, to The Cut, a small community within West Virginia known for secrecy and hostility towards outsiders. Since it’s been over a month since I finished the book and I gave it to my dad to read, my memories are pretty hazy. So rather than bore you with a synopsis of it, I’m just going to suggest that you read it. Especially if you like that feeling of not being able to put a book down because the suspense is killing you. I was spending every spare minute I had reading just to get to the end. This even led to me staying up close to midnight one night (I wake up at 5:30) and being spooked when something fell off my kitchen counter. That was the scariest moment I had experienced in a while and it probably didn’t help that when I wasn’t reading this book I was catching up on My Favorite Murder at work. If you happen to be looking for podcast recommendations, MFM is amazing!
Jiu-Jitsu updates: Not competing this summer after all. I was really hoping to compete in a local tournament this weekend but life gets in the way. After that tournament last October, I learned that I really shouldn’t be competing if my mind and heart aren’t in it.