03 December, 2015

The Russian judge gave it a 10, but you know those Russians!

I finished The Crappy One and Only. It ended the way I knew it would, with the Walker team winning the big game, and Shea and elderly Coach Hottie getting together. Even though we are told over and over again that Coach “looks ten years younger than his 55 years,” his age didn’t matter to me. What mattered was that he had watched her grow up. It was like a girl falling in creepy incestuous love with the stepfather who raised her from infancy. YUK. I was skeeved.
My grade: D- I am going to stay far away from Giffen from now on. I will say that she’s not a bad writer, which is why I did not give this an F. Story was an F but the prose was a solid B.
Now I’m listening to the mournfully beautiful The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman. I first read this book years ago; I chose it because I needed something I knew would not disappoint. It is not a traditional novel, but a collection of stories set in the same place: the town of Blackwell, Mass. Starting with the coming of white people to the icy, bear-filled wilderness of the Berkshires, going forward in jumps of 16 or 20 or 45 years. The same families show up again and again, and characters often refer to their parents and grandparents, the protagonists of previous stories.
I find the stories beautiful, though they are strange and full of loss and sadness. Johnny Appleseed shows up, and gives a suicidal widow the gift of knowing she is alive. A strange, plain young girl from Amherst meets a blind man, and although they only know each other for a few days, he gives her a dog named Carlo and she plants a scented garden for him.
A young girl drowns in a surprising summer snowstorm, in a cold year where one of Johnny Appleseed’s trees saves the lives of the town. A murderess’ daughter remembers sadly the execution, by electrocution, of an elephant named Topsy. I don’t know why I love Hoffman’s books as I do, I have friends who do not think much of her, but I find her writing so beautiful, clear and yet with a sense of how much wonder there is in the world. This book is full of beautiful descriptions of nature. 
I need things right now that help me forget the stuff that is going on in the world. So much awful stuff. I may have to put myself on a news diet, because two solid days of obsessively reading and listening to the news about San Bernadino is not good for me.
Here's a guilty secret: when I feel as scared and upset by the world as I do right now, I read children's books (especially old favorites) and Regency romances. Excuse me while I head off to an evening of extremely light reading.

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