Monday, April 30, 2012

Mommy Dearest

Ruth Reichl's book, Not Becoming my Mother is the story of Reichl finally figuring out who her mother was, by reading her mother's letters after her death.  It seems that Reichl had a goal of never becoming her own mother, and was surprised to find out that her mother wanted Reichl to avoid that fate as well. 

Reichl's mom was born in 1908, and lived in Tom Brocaw's "Greatest Generation".  What that meant for women was that they needed to work while there was a war going on, and they could not work when the war ended, without making their husbands look bad.  Reichl takes from this that her mom believed that "working is as necessary as breathing" and that her greatest wish was for her daughter to have a meaningful career.  I wonder if Reichl will still feel the same way when she is older and looking back on her own life.  There's the cliche that no one ever says on their deathbed that they wished that they had spent more time at the office, but if I had a job like Reichl's (she is a food critic in addition to being an author) I might spend too much time at work myself.

There's a lot of bitterness hiding in this book.  When I first bought it, I said that it looked "crazy short and gifty".  Crazy short, yes.  But I'm not sure to whom one would give this book as a gift. 

On the same note, I also started listening to Lit by Mary Karr.  For some reason, I picked up two memoirs, one in paper form and one in audio form, at the same time.  Both Reichl and Karr spend a great deal of time talking about their mothers.  But while the two authors were born only 7 years apart, Reichl seems to be able to look back on her mom's life with a hint of regret for all those years of judgment, while Karr still has a lot of  anger.  Of course Reichl's mom never threatened to kill her, like Karr's mom did, but happy families are all alike, right?

To be fair to Karr, I quit listening about a quarter of the way through the 3rd disc, and I think that there were 14 total.  To be fair to myself, there is no reason that I need to waste valuable hours listening to an angry person complain. 

Lit  was a NYT Notable Book in 2009, but I just don't have the energy or desire to hear the whole story.  I did enjoy hearing about Karr's insight into poetry that she gained from sharing poems with cognitively impaired (my words, she said "fairly functional retarded") women, and it was for that reason alone that I listened as long as I did.

In terms of the Challenges, that's 2 more down for the Off The Shelf Challenge, and one more down for the Support Your Library Challenge, since I checked Lit out in audio form from my library. 

Next up on Paper:  A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles.  Yep, this one has been on the top of my TBR list for a while, and I have even checked it out of the library, and returned it without opening.  This book is 968 pages, and the hardcover version, which I have, looks a lot like a dictionary.  We'll see how this one goes!

Next up on CD:  The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. 

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