Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Another Brief Roundup
Happy Thanksgiving! This holiday season, I'm thankful for fluffy bestsellers that can be read in snippets and don't require much brainpower. Lets start with my favorite broad, Chelsea Handler. Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea has been out for a bit, but I just recently picked it up for the first time. And can I just say that when I grow up, I want to be nothing like Ms. Handler. However, I do want her for a best friend. We could have slumber parties replete with vodka popsicles and manicures. We could lounge about while I listen, chin in hand, eyes dazzled, to Chelsea describe her latest hookup-gone-awry. I'd guffaw loudly, possibly spitting out my alcoholic beverage, but it would be okay; my bestie Chelsea would understand. She'd be my kids' Crazy Aunt Chelsea! We're probably the same size and she's kinda famous so I could borrow her designer outfits! She's always dragging friends around the world with her on book tours - I'm in, Chelsea! Give me a call! This book is a funny hyperbolic memoir of sorts. Word to the wise: it's kind of awkward to read on the Metro unless you're into laughing out loud, then stopping short to sketchily side-eye your seat mates in case they were looking at you first. Because you were laughing out loud like a crazy person. Chelsea details some funny hookups, trips, and even an arrest in this volume. It is a quick read, and quite hilarious - read it.
Recently, I also read Pat Conroy's much-anticipated new book, South of Broad. The plot developed painfully slowly, in signature Conroy style, with all the action crammed into the second half of the novel. If you don't have the patience for pages of Low Country description, or you don't like South Carolina, this book is not for you. This was only the second Conroy I have read; I loved Lords of Discipline but can never seem to get past the first few chapters of The Prince of Tides (which many of my friends claim is his best book by far). I may have to go back and give it another try. South of Broad is about a group of friends, and the book's plot focuses on both their senior year in 1969 and also on a period twenty years later, when they all come together to rescue one of their own who is dying alone from AIDS. With murders and murderers and a plot that follows the friends from Charleston to San Francisco and back, the book is pretty good. Honestly, my favorite part of the novel was towards the end, when Hurricane Hugo decimates Charleston, bringing the friends together and healing old rifts. I remember Hugo a teeny bit (we were evacuated from a beach vacation in NC for it), and I never realized how much damage the hurricane caused the old city. Charleston is just as prominent a character in Conroy's book as any of the people in it, so the hurricane's destruction is especially poignant.
I also just finished the new Dan Brown novel, The Lost Symbol. Another quick read, but after The Da Vinci Code (which I gobbled up, haters) this one left something to be desired. I don't think the "twist" was as compelling or written as believably as in The Da Vinci Code. I also thought the ending relied on a rather tired literary construct - the idea that everything you seek, you have already. Spoiler alert: the Ancient Wisdom referenced in book (several characters are hunting for it) turns out to be contained in the Bible. It speaks to man's ability to bend nature and reality to his will. When I got to the end of the book and found out that the goal all along was actually a Bible, I gotta say I felt a little let down. For this reason, I couldn't decide if Brown was throwing a bone to the critics of Da Vinci Code who protested that the book was vehemently anti-Christian, or if he was espousing a broader multi-religion world view (technically, Brown explains that the Ancient Wisdom is in every religious text world-wide - a kind of archetype. I live in the Washington DC area, so it was neat to read the novel and learn about landmarks and monuments in my town, especially their Masonic ties. I sit right next to a former president (is that the term?) of the DC-area Masons, and whenever RG saw me reading the book, he always asked what Masonic rituals were being described, but never commented on whether the book was true to life or not. Brown certainly took long enough between books to have researched and fact-checked diligently in anticipation of this novel's release so maybe parts of the book are based on fact.