Tag Archives: Jodi Picoult

Summer Reinventions

The summer in Hawaii is not very different from the rest of the year, just hotter, more humid, and more tourists.  Most residents are content to live in a place where others can only visit, but can sometimes feel trapped on the farthest rock in the middle of the ocean  Reading may offer an escape on days when the trade winds do not blow and the yearning for a civilized alternate life lingers in the air.  Women in books often reinvent themselves, from Bernadette to Alice, offering a cool escape through their stories.

Unknown Jodi Picoult’s feud with best-selling author Jonathan Franzen kept me from her books.   After her Small Great Things was recommended by two friends, I finally took on the author.  Whether or not her work fits into the category of literary fiction, her book tackles an ugly reality and forces the reader into introspection.  Her expected ending has a surprise twist, somehow forcing her message.  Ruth, her main character, stays true to herself, and it’s the villain who reinvents himself.

Unknown Nina George’s The Little French Bistro weaves romance into a desperate struggle to escape.  With the charm and beauty of a coastal village in Brittany as the setting, sixty year old Marianne casts aside her miserable forty years of marriage and begins again with a new attitude and a better connection.   I missed reading George’s “The Little Paris Bookshop” – another book about new beginnings; reinvention seems to be her theme –  what better place to reinvent yourself than Paris.

Unknown Kathleen Rooney’s Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk has a sophisticated Dorothy Parker literary aura, as the eighty-five year old New Yorker who lives in Murray Hill reminisces about milestones in her life on New Year’s Eve, 1984. The book is a series of vignettes as she revisits old haunts and recalls important moments in her life represented in restaurants, bars, parks, Penn Station, and Macy’s, where she worked for years as as advertising executive.  The book was inspired by the real life of Margaret Fishback, poet and Macy’s ad-writing wonder of the 1930s.   The neighborhoods have changed over the years as have the people, but Lillian remains curious and loyal, making new friends as she walks – the cop on the beat, the pregnant woman waiting outside the hospital, the store clerk who sells her an amaryllis bulb.  In true New York style, she has also an encounter with three muggers.  Anyone familiar with New York will recognize her – someone who needs no reinvention.  Sprinkled within her reminiscences are lines from Margaret Fishback’s books of poetry.

When life seems gray

And short of fizz

It seems that way

Because it is.

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures of You

When someone comes into your life at its lowest point to help you survive – maybe that’s an angel. In Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You, a car accident leaves nine-year-old Sam confused but hopeful, not realizing his angel is the woman who drove the other car.

Leavitt weaves the story around two unhappy women in their thirties who have decided to run away. Isabelle is leaving her unfaithful husband Luke, when she discovers he has been carrying on an affair with another woman who is now pregnant. April seems happily married to Charlie, with a devoted relationship to her asthmatic son, Sam; her reason for escape is a mystery that continues through much of the action.

The families, both living in Cape Cod, are brought together by the two cars colliding on a deserted foggy road. Young Sam, thinking Isabelle is an angel come to help him reconnect with his dead mother, finds comfort in her gentle overtures and a reprieve from his grief when she teaches him how to use a camera. Sam’s affinity for photography, and Isabelle’s yearning to leave the small-town photo shop to become a professional photographer in New York motivate a connection that eventually leads to Charlie.

Although the premise sounds trite, Leavitt does not let the relationships fall into the expected formula. The characters’ vulnerabilities in a time of crisis ring true as do the reactions of those around them – “you find out who your real friends are.” The drama focuses on how lives change irrevocably, not only because of the accident and how the survivors try to cope, but also how judgmental opinions shade decisions.

Would Jane Austen Tweet?

Aside from singer Roseanne Cash’s creation of the Twitter hashtag #JaneAustenAtTheSuperBowl, it’s unlikely that Jane herself would become addicted to the social media – but then, we’ll never know.  After enumerating the literary feuds famous writers verbally carry on, Jennifer Schuessler in her article for the New York Times, “In Book Circles, a Taming of the Feud,” dissects the Twitter campaigns that novelists wield against each other.

Can you be a fan of Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult, if you know they have been carrying on a Twitter campaign against Jonathan Franzen under the hashtag #Franzenfreude?  Even when you know Franzen is the better writer, Weiner and Picoult books offer a different emotional release that readers need now and then – don’t they know this?  On the other hand, Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winner, seems a little catty criticizing the chicklit genre in her tweets.   Even a healthy eater needs chocolate now and then.

Eleanor Lipman sent me an email asking me to follow her twitter feed, as she posts a poem a day:

Starting today, I’m tweeting one poem per day (140 characters, natch) of a (partisan) political nature, from now until the 2012 election. They will be rhyming couplets, and, I hope, entertaining.

I discovered I could google “Elinor Lipman twitter” and get to her tweets without joining the ubiquitous network.

Why tweet?  Is it the electronic version of the haiku that can have as many letters as you can fit into 26 words?  Could anyone compete with an Ogden Nash limerick?  In her article, Schuessler says today’s tweeters require that “you don’t think about what you’re saying.”

I have not yet succumbed to the power of the tweet.  For the most part, it’s too hard to limit my idea to 140 characters – does that include commas?  If I did, I might tweet:

 If U want 2 know whatever pops into my head – what I think about anything – and U want my  insights/suggestions, even if I don’t know what I’m talking about -here is my advice

Oops – no more characters left.   Do you tweet?

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