30 October 2011

House of Sand and Fog

Finished last night.... late!  If you read my previous post, you've learned that it took me some time to warm up to House of Sand and Fog.  It didn't truly grip me until Part II.

What a sad tale.  Now I know why Dad said the film was so sad, and that I've sort of avoided this book. 

 Warning, spoiler alert. 

I don't typically cry while reading (although I OFTEN cry while watching films), but I had tears in my eyes for this ending....  the whole thing was a disaster for everyone involved. 

Shakespeare would have liked this.  It reminded me of Othello.  One small misunderstanding starts a chain of events that end in total tragedy. 

And even along the way, there are moments when the characters could have made different choices and had a different outcome.  Kathy and Lester doubt each other (and rightly so, it's a flash of passion, I don't think it would have lasted the "long haul).  Kathy gets blind drunk, Lester stews around and then invades the house.  Behrani could have gone for the gun when he had the opportunity instead of telling himself, "if I have to think about it, I'm too old." And on and on and on.

Reading Esmail's death really hurt.  I could feel the hurt, because I can't imagine how destroyed I would be if my only son were killed.

Despair over and over again.  Choices born from despair.
Kathy seems resigned to her fate in the end.  It's almost as though she's found a family that accepts her unconditionally - for the first time.

Soraya is the only survivor of the Behrani family.  This family of survivors - during the Iranian Revolution, of all things - is the victim of bureaucracy and rage and passion and impulsiveness in the end.  And her reaction is invisible to us.  We will never know.

So, no happy ending this time.

Or next time, it looks like.

Instead of sticking with the original plan of having DH pick the next book, I foolishly allowed 10-yr-old (sadistic?) DS to do so.  Next up: Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.  I think he wants to see me suffer - not because of a plot, but through 823 pages.  My reaction to my next assignment, well, he thought that was just a laugh riot.

See you in the spring.....

24 October 2011

Progress: Ho Hum

This is how far I've gotten...

Well, an uninspired start to this project. I'm about a third of the way through House of Sand and Fog, and I'm not enjoying it. Not sure if it's bleak, or I'm too distracted with other things to devote time to reading. Maybe I'm avoiding it because the characters make me feel unhappy. No good can come of this situation.

I'll soldier on.

17 October 2011

My own assignment

If nothing has clued you in yet, I'm a book fiend.  I read about fifty books each year.  I've challenged myself to read this:

Yep, all these books (well, except for the dictionary and thesaurus on top - that would be silly ;-).  For the element of surprise, I've asked my husband to select (assign?) the books to me.  (I don't think there'll be any science to it, probably something like the first one he grabs.)

None of these are brand new.  In fact, none of them were even purchased new.  ALL of them were gotten "frugally," at GoodWill (the GoodWill on the South Portland/Scarborough line has a CRAZY good book section) or at used book stores or library sales.  My financial investment is minimal, my emotional investment is significant.

So don't expect any hot-off-the-presses reviews, but I'll post about each one as I finish.  It'll keep me on task.  And it's good for me to write about literature.  I used to do it well; maybe I can still muster up mediocre.

Book #1: Andre Dubus III's House of Sand and Fog.  I've had this copy for some time, and I've NOT watched the film (because I also have a personal rule that I need to read the book FIRST).  But when the film was in theatres, my parents saw it, and Dad remarked, "What a sad, sad movie."  Very uncharacteristic for him to be emotional about a film.

At the end of House of Sand and Fog I'll let you know if I'm drenched in tears.  It could happen.

11 October 2011

Book Lovers Unite!

I might have missed out on the last gasp of summer weather, but my geeky self had a ball on Saturday as I helped sort and organize The Glacier, the fond term for the more than 20,000 donated books stored over the course of each year for the Annual Friends of the South Portland Public Library Used Book Sale.

I'm a dyed-in-the-wool book lover, and a sucker for used books.  Maybe it's my Yankee frugality, or my tree-hugging spirit of reduce-reuse-recycle, but I just can't bring myself to spend $25 on a retail book, when I know if I wait a couple of years I can scoop up the same book for two bucks at a sale that benefits a good cause.  How do I wait it out?  By browsing through the hundreds of books (maybe a thousand?) awaiting me at home (I know, there's probably a diagnosis here, but it's not Hoarders or anything.  Really, it's not).  My dear husband insists we could insulate our house with our books, and I think top of his list of "Why I Never Want to Move to a New House" is the spectre of hauling all my beloved books (and probably risking a back injury in the process).  Was I sad when Borders went belly up?  Of course, but mostly because it was the demise of the last retail location in Greater Portland where you could hang around well past 9pm, coffee in hand, and browse through.... books!  Nirvana!

This ugly duckling found her swans on Saturday.  Not just one, but a whole room of busy, book-loving people just like me.  Whee!

Dave on the move.  The children's books are still being arranged.
And I met Dave Kirkwood, the Angel of The Glacier.  Several times a week, ALL through the year, Dave processes the books donated at the South Portland Library into categories, which he then carefully boxes up and adds to The Glacier, a veritable pyramid of boxes the size of a small warehouse.  It's astonishing.  Dave quietly devotes this care and time, and then is the cheerful commandant of Sorting Day, hauling trolley after trolley of boxed books, patiently directly volunteers as we ask him, for the umpteenth time, "Um, Dave, what do you want me to work on next?"  He's amazing.

At the end of the day, I was tired, but excited.  I managed to hold down my purchases to a mere two full cardboard boxes of books.  Dave loaded the boxes onto a dolly and wheeled them out to my car (awww).  As we chatted on the way, I said I looked forward to seeing him next weekend for Cleanup Day.  He replied, "Oh, well, I won't be there this year for Cleanup.  I feel bad about it, but after a lot of thought, I've decided to go to my 60th high school reunion."  60 years!  Dave, you rock.

Can't find anything here?  Try the fiction room across the hall.
The book sale starts today and lasts til Saturday.  You can come in today if you are a "Friend" of the South Portland Library (a small donation, and well worth it, IMHO.)  And I promise I won't shop from your stash.