Saturday, September 8, 2012
One to Read and One to Skip
However, I was confused, from a Dewey Decimal stand point. Specifically, I thought that I was reading a book of short stories, which the author pretentiously decided to call "essays" instead, but when I looked up the book at my library, it was in non-fiction territory. I recently read a collection of short stories by Tobias Wolff, so I double checked on my library's online catalog, and sure enough, that book was listed as fiction. It turns out that an essay is different from a short story in that an essay is supposed to be true. So while Wolff may have been writing about himself, and calling it fiction, Crosley was admittedly writing about herself, which turned her short stories into essays. And not memoirs, which are, apparently, longer essays. So, I was Told There'd be Cake is not in the biography section, with the other memoirs. However, for my purposes, because Crosley is writing about herself, and because my standards are somewhat lax, I'm calling this one a memoir.
Crosley's stories are mostly about her time as a college graduate trying to navigate NYC with undefined career goals. She stumbles; she falls. But she also writes really well, and her stories are worth reading. It was refreshing to read mini-memoirs from someone who seems to genuinely like her family. She is sort of a less materialistic Jen Lancaster, and Crosley doesn't try quite so hard to be funny, but is funny nonetheless.
On the other hand, I am not going any further with Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin. F&F seemed like the perfect book for me. I recently read and loved Winter's Tale by Helprin, so I knew I liked the author, and the characters of Freddy and Fredericka were said to be loose characterizations of Charles (Prince of Wales) and Diana, so what's not to like there? Camilla was cast as Lady Boilinghot - really. For the first 5 discs that I listened to on CD, (there are 22 discs in all), I thought of it as a Monty Python-esque story, and tried to play along. Having just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, I had a soft spot for Monty Python movies, and followed the ridiculousness obediently. But when Freddy found himself tarred and feathered (in the 1980s) and complained that his wife wouldn't play with his [tennis] balls, I questioned my commitment, and checked the GoodReads reviews. They were mostly positive, with lots of people saying that the book got off to a slow start, but that it got better after a couple of hundred pages. So, I gave the story 3 more discs. The idea, where I left off, is that Freddy and Fredericka/Charles and Diana were dropped in New Jersey, naked except for furry bikinis, with the charge to conquer America for England, or to lose the claim to the throne. They were portrayed as being clueless about how to speak American, and that is supposed to lead to hysterical antics. Not for me. I figure I have about 10 hours into that book so far, and that's enough.
That's two down for the Off the Shelf Challenge, and I'm counting Freddy and Fredericka for the Support Your Library Challenge too, since I checked the discs out on CD.
Next up: The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont
Next up on CD: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant