I’m racing along to the end of the alphabet, trying to get at least the authors done before the end of the year. The end is in sight, and in most cases, I’ve been able to meet some other goals while I race through the alphabet in what is available on audiobook for my long commute. I’ve recently finished a Booker-Prize-winning, 1001-Book-listed, suspense tale and a couple classics of American literature, both also on the 1001 list. One of the amusing things that linked the American novels was that they were set back in the days of turntables, black and white TVs that showed static overnight and closed in to a tiny point of light when turned off, and other such items that my daughter will never experience. It was fun to travel back to things I remember from childhood. My Goodreads reviews are unfortunately short, but I liked all these books for different reasons.
Felicia is a young, pregnant Irishwoman just arrived in England to locate the father of her child. Her family back at home, proud of their history in the Irish battles for independence, are enraged about her condition and suspicious that her boyfriend is in the British Army. Her boyfriend’s mother hates her and refuses to give his address in England. She has only the information he told her when they were together, that he sells lawnmowers at a factory that produces them, and the name of an English town, to go on in finding him.
As her story unfolds, she is befriended by an older man who works as a catering director at a local company. Gradually we learn that he is not being honest with her, and we also hear his internal recollections of other “girlfriends” which take on an ominous tone. The novel is deliciously unsettling as we watch the unnerving cat-and-mouse game unfold. Think Hitchcock at his best and most subtle and you will have the feel that this book generates.
I don’t think Updike will be a favorite for me, but I nonetheless enjoyed this book somehow. Which is weird, since Rabbit Angstrom is only marginally sympathetic as a protagonist, a significantly flawed everyman in a small city in PA. He runs out on a pregnant wife with a drinking problem, unable to figure out how to love her. He also runs out on a young son. Generally, he’s pretty much of a jerk, really. He sort of wanders through life hurting people and not caring very much. In spite of this, the book kept me interested. The writing is clear and skillful, and John Updike engages important themes as Rabbit engages with various family members, a former coach, and the family of a minister who tries to rescue him.
No one ever went out to lunch with Mushari. He took nourishment alone in cheap cafeterias, and plotted the violent overthrow of the Rosewater Foundation. He knew no Rosewaters. What engaged his emotions was the fact that the Rosewater fortune was the single largest money package represented by McAllister, Robjent, Reed and McGee. He recalled what his favorite professor, Leonard Leech, once told him about getting ahead in law. Leech said that, just as a good airplane pilot should always be looking for places to land, so should a lawyer be looking for situations where large amounts of money were about to change hands.
“In every big transaction,” said Leech, “there is a magic moment during which a man has surrendered a treasure, and during which the man who is due to receive it has not yet done so. An alert lawyer will make that moment his own, possessing the treasure for a magic microsecond, taking a little of it, passing it on. If the man who is to receive the treasure is unused to wealth, has an inferiority complex and shapeless feelings of guilt, as most people do, the lawyer can often take as much as half the bundle, and still receive the recipient’s blundering thanks.”
That is a part of how Vonnegut sets up his tale of the battle for the control of the Rosewater Foundation, a non-profit basically established to keep a rich family comfortably wealthy.
In terms of serious reading, Kurt Vonnegut just feels like cheating. His merciless satire is simply way too much fun to be good for you. Seriously. It is fast-paced, and funny, and scathing to its core. And through it he tends to make a lot of points that I tend to agree with. In this case the points are about wealth and social status and corruption and idealism and lots of other stuff. He delighted my idealistic yet cynical soul to the core. God Bless you, Mr. Vonnegut!
Around the World (goal: 52 total including at least 6 in each of 6 different regions) 25
Asia/Mideast: 6 (Israel, China, Afghanistan, Japan, Iran, Pakistan)
Africa: 2 (Madagascar, Libya)
Europe: 6 (England/UK, Ireland, Monaco, Poland, Spain, Italy)
Caribbean/Central America/North America: 5 (US, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica)
Oceania: 1 (Fiji)
South America: 1 (Brazil)
Extra: 4 (Scotland, Greece, Holland, India)
Around the US (goal: 50 states, DC, and PR): 18 (AZ, CA, CO, GA, IA, IN, KS, LA, MA, MI, MN, MS, NM, NJ, NY, PA, RI, WV)
1001 Books (goal 52): 21
A to Z challenge (must be completed in order–26 author last names A to Z then 26 titles A to Z–strategy is all!): 22
Authors: Auster, Beinart, Chandler, Donovan, Eugenides, Faulkner, Grau, Hosseini, Ishiguro, Joyce, King, Lewis, Murakami, Nasar, Ondaatje, Preston and Childs, Quinn, Rushdie, Scott, Trevor, Updike, Vonnegut