Between the Lines


I don’t often post or write about what I’m reading. Maybe because it’s overdone–too many of us cluttering the cosmos with our likes & dislikes–or maybe, as I suggest in this link, it’s a little presumptuous. But I can if I want to–isn’t that the point of it all?–and when Amor Towles, the author of Rules of Civility, came to town, I took the opportunity to shout it from the vantage point of my latest Presidio Sentinel column. I call it “You’ve gotta read this!”

I plan to write a year-end column on people’s favorite reads of 2012. What’s yours? Repeats don’t count, so it can’t be your second go at War & Peace (unless you never finished it the first time) or your annual reading of Pride & Prejudice or my third time through Rules of Civility, although I did, in fact, enjoy it more than anything else I’ve read this year, even on my third reading.

 

I and most of the women I know were devastated by Nora Ephron’s recent death at the tender age of 71. We feel a personal loss; she was our friend. We counted on laughing and crying with her for years to come.

During introductions in a writing class last year, asked what we wanted to write, I replied that I’d love to write like Nora Ephron. I suppose one can aim for loftier heights–Alice Munro’s stories or Zadie Smith’s essays–but I’d be happy with just a smidgen of Nora’s unique brand of wit and wisdom, her keen insights and way with words.

My latest column for the Presidio Sentinel is my tribute to Nora.

Last year I took a memoir writing class from Kathi Diamant, and since then–actually since way before then–have been intending to read her biography of her namesake and possible ancestor, Dora Diamant, Kafka’s Last Love. I finally did and was blown away by Kathi’s exhaustive research as much as I was enthralled by the story of Dora, her relationship to Kafka and her life after his death. I wrote about it in my Presidio Sentinel column as one of a series of pieces about local authors. Will it motivate me to read Kafka? Hmmm, we’ll see….

When I saw reviews of An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi, it went to the top of my list. The immediate draw was the comparison to Mrs Dalloway. Like Woolf’s masterpiece, Korkeakivi has written a circadian novel–one taking place in a single dayabout a woman planning a dinner party and encountering her past.  And, like Mrs D, it’s so much more.The novel is a great read and rewarding in itself, a complex story of secrets and lies interwoven with the domestic drama: guest list, menu, what to wear, and, of course, buying the flowers. I posted my “sighting” on BloggingWoolf on the newly-christened “Clarissa Day,” established by Woolfians to keep pace with the Joyceans’ “Bloomsday,” homage to that other circadian novel, Ulysses. Since then I’ve had the occasion to exchange emails with Anne Korkeakivi and ask her about Woolf’s influence. She said: “I can’t say I set out to write a contemporary version of Mrs. Dalloway, but I did recognize early on the similarities between what I wanted to do and what Woolf so brilliantly does in that novel.”

The New York Times Book Review keeps me current on what’s new and notable, and that’s where I first learned about Carol Anshaw’s Carry the One. With raves coming from all over, the queue for that one was longer, but the library came through, and it was worth the wait. It’s a fascinating novel about the aftermath of a tragic accident. And to my surprise and delight, as is often the case, there on page 63 was Virginia Woolf, in a wonderfully evocative passage about “love between women as a languid extension of friendship.” I tracked down Carol Anshaw to ask my familiar question, “Why Woolf?” and we had a great exchange, which I also posted on Blogging Woolf.

Everyone’s entitled to the escape reading of their choice, whether it’s who-dunnits or sci-fi or erotica – mine is chick lit, & so I had great fun standing up for it in my latest “Between the Lines” column for the Presidio Sentinel. It was the first of a series about local authors, and Jennifer Coburn, the author of four delightful novels, was my first choice as a feature.

Jen and I go way back – we worked together at Planned Parenthood and have popped up in each others’ paths over the years. Most recently I saw her at the International Women’s Day rally downtown. Which is to say that her feminist credentials can’t be called into question, and her chick lit novels all have a way of showing the strength & savvy of her characters.

I also make the argument that Virginia Woolf would approve!

It was invigorating and inspiring to attend the release party for the San Diego Writers, Ink fifth annual anthology of work by local writers. And it was extra nice that my writing buddy, Jim Brega, was one of the anthology authors who was celebrated. Jim and other authors read from their work, a fine sampling of prose and poetry. I wrote a recap for the Presidio Sentinel column.

…and on and on. Which is what I wrote about in my latest Between the Lines column for the Presidio Sentinel after reading P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley. The Jane mania has resulted in a fair share of silliness, but it’s also gotten people talking about and reading Jane Austen. The examples I provide are just a smattering of what’s come along in recent years.

The Virginia Woolf fascination continues as well, although I think a lot of people find Woolf’s own work more intimidating. But we’ve come a long way from when she was thought to be the character played by Elizabeth Taylor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

“Between the Lines” is the title of my monthly column in the Presidio Sentinel, a community newspaper in my San Diego neighborhood of Mission Hills. The column gives me license to write about all things bookish–reading and writing, book culture, &c. My latest column, “Reading Contemporary Americana,” was the result of reflections about two of 2011’s blockbuster novels, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Marriage Plot and The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. The two stories had a number of things in common, and both novels were highly acclaimed, making a number of “best” lists for the year. Why did I like one so much more than the other?