July 18, 2010

Vacation Reading Report

Ok, so these couldn't be more different!  I listened to Stephen Fry reading his novel as I drove down to Florida and I listened to Kathi Appelt's book on the way back.

Stephen Fry is an author (I previously read his book The Liar), actor, thinker and one of my favorite people.   This book is not politically correct in any way but I was crying laughing.  My favorite bits were  the main character's rants on modern life and anything to do with the swishy character Oliver, nicknamed "Mother."  The dialog is sheer brilliance.  There's a bit of incest and bestiality of course, but don't let that keep you away.  Can't wait to hear what the other blokes in my book club think of it.  (But that's in a few months.  We're doing The Maltese Falcon this week and The Hunger Games in August).

I finished off a professional book while on vacation.  New Steps to Service by Ann Wasman.  It was a solid and accessible, if dated, overview for new librarians.  I hope it gets an update soon. (And the cover is too plain to bother posting.)

"The secret of happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible, horrible, horrible."
-Bertrand Russell

If you understand and agree with this Russell quote then you'll love The Underneath as well.  If not, then it's probably too dark for you.

It starts out as an Incredible Journey/Watership Down kind of story about the unlikely but touching friendship of a cat, her kittens and an old hound.  But there are two other stories intertwined with this one.  There is the villain who could as easily made an appearance in a Thomas Harris novel along with a mystical story of an ancient being.  So now we have more of a Charlotte's Web/Tuck Everlasting/Neil Gaiman sort of thing.

It's good.  Very good.  And it's meant to be read aloud.  If your kids can handle The Giver they'll dig this.  Appelt has some serious poetic chops and while some of the repetition can seem to make this short tale longer than it needs ti be, she's channeling Homer who, when one of his warriors fell, took down the histories of all all his ancestors down with him.  This ties into the rich Southern Gothic vein  as well in which the past influences the present always and in ways we can't always fathom.

And while life if horrible, it is happy.  And love is important.  he love in this tale is as moving and important as can be imagined.  While this book may not be for everyone, it is a dark treasure for those it is meant for.