In what might seem like a shocking departure to my ordinary monthly reading wrap-up, which is to say I normally post pictures of titles that are prefixed by such phrases as ‘hope to get to‘ or ‘in the pile to read‘, I finished four out of the above five titles.
The Sweet Hereafter is a novel of connected short stories that account the devastating consequences on a small town after the local school bus goes off the side of the road and into icy waters, killing most of the children on board. Told from a variety of perspectives, the story is bookended by the voice of Dolores Driscoll, the driver of the bus, who goes from affectionately regarded community member to somewhat of a social pariah in the course of the narrative. Hers is the most rounded character for this reason, and if I have any criticism it’s that I wish the other featured characters had had the same chance. Mitchell Stephens, the lawyer come to town to convince the people to sue, for example, is quite interesting and I was sorry the story had to leave him.
Russell Banks himself is said to believe that the 1997 movie adaption surpassed the book. Perhaps this is why it was so successful. I tried to watch it once, but turned it off because I found it upsetting. These lines below come close towards the end and have haunted me… perhaps because I come from a small town, and Adam from an even smaller one.
“The accident had ruined a lot of lives. Or, to be exact, it had busted apart the structures on which those lives had depended – depended, I guess, to a greater degree than we had originally believed. A town needs its children for a lot more than it thinks.”
Nathan Englander recently won the 2012 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award for What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. I’d picked up this book from the library before that accolade, quite randomly, as I was curious about the rather intriguing title and the plethora of endorsements from other well-respected writers all over the cover. I’m so glad I did. These short stories are well-crafted and many straddle a balance between poignancy and dark humour, a sensitivity to the past as well as the ability to investigate its greyer areas.
Cosmo Cosmolino is the only Helen Garner novel I’d not yet read, and now it’s possible to purchase again thank to the Text Publishing ‘Text Classics‘ series which is reissuing out of print books. A loan from a friend I began reading… and persisted… and persisted… and eventually skipped to the end to find out what happened. I know. For shame. I feel dirty and guilty even admitting it because, my, how I love Garner’s writing.
Five Billion Sold: The Amazing Facts Behind the Fiction tells the (sometimes very sad) behind-the-scenes stories of the most prolific authors in terms of sales counts: Agatha Christie, Grace Metalious, Harold Robbins, Jaqueline Susann, Sidney Sheldon, Michael Chrichton, Tom Clancy and many more. It’s easy to forget that there’s been many a phenomenon that’s preceded the 50 Shades of Grey frenzy and I would hazard to guess that for every copy of 50 Shades that will end up in the second-hand bookstore there’s many others that stay on people’s lives because they’re entertaining and enduring.
I read Sidney Sheldon because I found a copy of one of this novels – I think it was The Doomsday Conspiracy – on my grandfather’s shelf. My mother had a copy of The Carpetbaggers in the garage. And let’s not forget the copy of Peyton Place I bought that had the pages ripped out for – I’m guessing – censorship reasons.
I borrowed War of the Worlds but had to return it when it was due because someone had put a hold on it. Oh well! I did okay.
What have you been reading this month?