Sunday, June 9, 2013

May Reading

Better late than never, here's what I read in May:

1.  The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer which I discussed in this blog post.   Highly recommended.

2.  Last Friends by Jane Gardam.   This is the third book in the trilogy Gardam unexpectedly constructed around Sir Edward Feathers, his wife Betty and Terry Veneering.  I discussed the first two novels, Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat, when I read them.  I had no idea that a third book was even coming out until I unexpectedly saw it on the Barnes and Noble site and immediately snapped it  up.  I meant to write about it when I read it but just didn't have the time.  I did like this novel very much and was happy that Gardam gave Veneering his due by telling us his back story.  I don't usually finish a novel wishing for a BBC production to be made, but I think this trilogy would be a wonderful television production with great roles for older and younger actors.  It isn't necessary to read the first two novels to understand this one, but it adds layers of understanding if you have read them.  Recommended.

3.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.   I've seen this everywhere the last few years and one day when I realized I was going to be stuck in a chair at the salon for a couple of hours without a book, I stepped into a book store and quickly bought a book to read.  It was this one.   It is a YA novel, which is always a plus for me.  Flavia de Luce is the heroine, a young girl living in a decaying British great house in 1950's England.  She is a fervent student of chemistry and fortunate enough to have her own lab, where she concocts things like poison ivy laced lipstick to punish her sister.  When a dead body shows up in the garden she of course is fascinated.  There were times in this novel when the chemistry talk bored me a little but mostly I enjoyed the story.  Recommended.

4.  The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman.   A series of chapters about the people who work at a failing English language newspaper in Rome, it reads like connected short stories.  Since I don't really like short stories that was not a plus for me.  The characters were well drawn. 

5.  The Kingdom of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe. The concept of Ordinary Time comes from the Catholic liturgical calendar in which the year is divided into seasons.  I like to think of Ordinary Time as the time that is not included in the Big Seasons:  Advent, Christmastime, Lent and Easter.   But Ordinary Time is actually its own season (even though it is broken into segments) and is the longest season of the liturgical calendar.

As a child, attending mass every morning at my Catholic grade school, I was always aware of the coming of Ordinary Time.  In my mind it was the boring time - the time when nothing exciting was going to happen during the service.  No special rituals, like there were during the preparatory seasons of Advent and Lent.  No massive celebrations, like there were during the seasons of Christmas and Easter.  In Ordinary Time everything was ... ordinary.   You just lived your life without the excitement of anticipation or celebration.

Marie Howe's most recent book of poetry is titled "The Kingdom of Ordinary Time".  Recently I heard Marie Howe interviewed by Krista Tippet on NPR.  Tippet asked her about the name of the collection and Howe's answer brought back those memories:

"...ordinary time originally meant to me when I would go through the missal when I was a kid. Remember, those swaths of time between high holy seasons was ordinary time ... And there was always coming — the coming of ordinary time, the coming of ordinary time, the coming of — and then first Sunday of ordinary times, second Sunday of ordinary time. I remember just thinking in a strange and wonderful way talking about everyday life. And, so this notion of like when nothing dramatic is happening, but this is where we're living. It's not Easter. It's not Christmas. It's not Lent. It's not Advent."

I had never heard of Marie Howe before I caught this interview and I was fascinated by her and loved the poetry that she read for that program.  So I picked up the collection of poetry and couldn't put it down.  When I finished it, I turned back and read it again.  Again, I meant to write something about this separately, but did not have time.  Highly Recommended.