Blog Archive for December, 2012

30 Dec 2012

Gems for the New Year:
Edith Pearlman’s Short Stories

No Comments Book Reviews, New and Exciting, What You Should Read

In the introduction to the exquisite stories found in Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision, Ann Patchett writes, “What you have in your hands now is a treasure, a book you could take to a desert island knowing that every time you got to the end you could simply turn to the front cover and start it all again. It is not a collection of bus crashes, junkies, and despair. Despair is much easier to write about than self-reliance. Theses stories are an exercise in imagination and compassion…an example of what happens when talent meets discipline and stunning intelligence.”

Patchett’s remarks are spot on, and we highly recommend Pearlman’s stories. We have dipped into the collection starting with the title story and working our way through “Self-Reliance,” and then on to “Vaquita,” “If Love Were All,” “Purim Night,” “The Coat,” “Home Schooling,” and our favorite, “On Junius Bridge.”

What we love about Pearlman’s writing is her keen eye and her life affirming themes. She finds beauty in every detail and joy in the most desperate situations. Her view of the world is described as “large and compassionate, delivered through small, beautifully precise moments. Her characters inhabit terrain that all of us recognize, one defined by anxieties and longing, love and grief, loss and exultation. These quiet, elegant stories add something significant to the literary landscape.” (New York Times, January 2011)

Edith Pearlman maintains an esteemed presence in the literary world. She has earned the praise and recognition of her peers but not enough attention from readers. As Ann Patchett writes, “Binocular Vision should be the book with which Edith Pearlman takes up her rightful position as a national treasure. Put her stories beside those of John Updike and Alice Munro. That’s where they belong.”

So, for our first pick of 2013, we are wholeheartedly suggesting Binocular Vision. Consider giving it throughout the year as a gift to all the smart women you know who love fiction. We are certain that they will find the stories as enchanting and meaningful as we do.

05 Dec 2012

It’s Hard to Blog About Hate

No Comments Book Club Notes, Book Reviews, What You Should Read

Hate: A Romance is our third international novel on this year’s reading list. So far we have worked our way through David Grossman (To the End of the Land) and Julian Barnes (Flaubert’s Parrot), and now find ourselves wrestling with a young French writer and philosopher named Tristan Garcia. (If you are interested, our next international novel is Fiasco by the Hungarian Irme Kertesz.)

In Hate: A Romance, Garcia develops four characters through whom he weaves the themes of love, sex, violence, hate, and death. The result is an extremely disturbing yet original novel, and readers may find the subject matter hard to take. But, there is also much to learn. After all, we read to explore boundaries beyond what we know, and sometimes it requires us to peer through a darkened window.

Told through the voice of a ‘straight’ journalist named Liz, the story centers on political and personal struggles as AIDS wreaks havoc on an emerging and newly-liberated gay community in Paris. Our main characters, Will and Doume, exploit the AIDS crisis to both carry out individual vendettas and advance political agendas. It is a complicated tale, layered with ideas about commitment, liberation, and activism. Garcia says, “It seemed to me that, as time passed, the memories, the intimate writings of those who had participated in the chronology of gay liberation, the subsequent arrival of the AIDS virus, and the political ruptures that accompanied them step-by-step, weren’t enough anymore–it needed an aspect of fiction.” Hate: A Romance is the fruit of that vision.

The novel’s style is journalistic and a fast read, yet is contains powerful bits of philosophy. In the concluding section, Liz offers reflections on her life and the men with whom she shares this literary stage. One such observation is, “Our origin reveals itself only slowly to be our destiny, and with some weariness, some relief, some fright, we come to understand it. The way we understand it depends on the way we first wanted not to understand it, and to be free.” Her point, which is underscored by the love-hate paradigm that dominates the narrative, is that only through the exploration of opposing tensions can we understand the meaning of our lives.

While the smart women in our group engaged in an intense and significant discussion about this novel, it was a challenge to get to the heart of the matter. So not only was it tough to talk about Hate: A Romance, it is also very hard to blog about! Nonetheless, it is a novel smart women might consider for their reading groups  if you want to read outside of the box.