Saturday, July 30, 2011

I Remember Nothing, by Nora Ephron

Months ago I listened to an audiotape of "I Remember Nothing" and because my memory is, like Ephron's, shall we say, porous, I remember almost nothing about her newest offering.

Here's what I do remember: This collection of essays sparkles. Ephron, as always, is funny, self-effacing, erudite and opinionated. Whether bemoaning her sagging turkey-skin in "I Feel Bad About My Neck," her previous book of essays, or lamenting senior moments in this offering, she does so with humor, grace and flair.

If you're a nonfiction lover like me, you've noticed two things: bookstores don't devote a lot of shelf space to essay collections, and not many of the essayists published are women. So read (or listen to) "I Remember Nothing." If, like me, you're a woman of a certain age, you may not retain the particulars of Ephron's essays, but you'll never forget the enjoyment that comes with reading the work of a master of the form.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The False Friend, by Myla Goldberg, and The Family Man, by Elinor Lipman

Readers, your summer reading list: Myla Goldberg's "The False Friend," and Elinor Lipman's "The Family Man."

Goldberg's newest offering is the story of Celia Durst's rediscovery. The False Friend explores the vagaries of memory, and the phenomenon of how, if events are recalled over and over, over a long period of time, they become fact -- whether or not they actually happened. Celia Durst, after twenty years, is finally ready to admit and explore what she now believes is the truth: that when, as a 10-year-old, she told the police she saw her friend disappear into a stranger's car, she was lying, and that her friend actually fell into a deep hole along a forest path. As Celia returns to her childhood home and tries to set the record straight, she discovers surprising and unsavory truths about her ten-year-old self. Beautiful, haunting language, intriguing, nuanced story. Another great Myla Goldberg offering.

My most recent literary mistake: because the "The Family Man's" author's name, Elinor Lipman, brought to mind an older woman, I figured the novel would be a snoozer. It doesn't escape me that I'm an older woman. Embarrassing and ironic. Lipman's book sat on my shelf for months, as I pushed it back down to the bottom of my to-read pile again and again.

Luckily, I opened it just in time to enjoy one of the most delicious summer reads ever. Lipman's work brings to mind the novels of another master storyteller: Jonathan Tropper. Like Tropper, Lipman paints quirky, deeply flawed families and then backs them into corners, which prompts them to do and say the funniest things. In "The Family Man," Attorney Henry Archer is a gay, ex-husband who, after 25-years, is reunited with the non-biological daughter of his brief marriage. And that's all I'm going to tell you, because the twists and turns of the plot, the authentic, smart dialogue and fast pacing all make this a great summer read.


Summer's Book Fails

Oh, Booklerner, I've missed you so. Truly. Even as I've unsuccessfully tried to ward off my annual case of chlorinated straw-hair, even as summer days melt into one big blur of heat shimmers off the tar, I've pined away, longing to get back to you, get bossy and opinionated, and tell unsuspecting readers what they should read.

Books: beware! Summer's heat wilts my neurons, leaving me with the attention span of an unmedicated, hyperactive 10-year-old boy. Books, if you want to be lovingly dog-eared, smeared with drips of blueberry frozen yogurt, and pruned by splashes of pool water, you'd better be up to the task. Enough of this "if you get past the first 30 pages, it gets really good" bulls#@t. What kind of malarkey is that? Books, if you want me, if you really want me, don't be coy; engage me from the start. Fill page one with funny, empathetic characters who quickly find themselves in ridiculous, conflict-ridden messes.

Two examples of the multitudes of popular books that didn't cut the muster for me: Jennifer Haigh's "The Condition," and Anita Shreve's "Rescue." Verdict? Snoozers!

But enough of the negative. Stay tuned for the must-reads of summer in my next post.