What should I read next?

I have about a novel’s-worth of pages (a little less than 300, that is) left to read of Gone with the Wind, but I admit I am already thinking about what to read next. Another blogger following the challenge put it quite well: it’s not new to me anymore. I am as tired as Scarlett is of the war and everything it wreaked upon Atlanta. Poor Scarlett must continue through Reconstruction, her life not being a book she can just put down when she feels like it (Although wouldn’t that be nice sometimes? I guess that’s what vacations are for.) Me, I’ll get to a point in her tale where we part ways, and I’ll go on to haunt someone else’s life for a while (or vice versa). The question is, whose?

Weeks ago I planned to read One Hundred Years of Solitude right after Gone with the Wind, but I’ve decided I want to take a little break so my faculties are fresh for that one, so yesterday I pulled a bunch of books down from my TBR shelf and read through the first pages. I’ve narrowed it down to five choices, but I can’t seem to decide, so I was hoping you might help me pick one! I’ve listed my choices below, with a short synopsis and the first paragraph or so of each (to get a sense of voice). You can vote by leaving a comment until 6:00 PM EST Friday, March 27, when I’ll choose my next book.

Note: No worries if you haven’t read any of these! Just let me know which of these (if any) sounds most interesting to you.

Here are my five contestants:

thecountrylifeThe Country Life, by Rachel Cusk. 

Synopsis: “Stella Benson answers a classified ad and arrives in a tiny Sussex village, home to a family that is somewhat larger than life. Her hopes for the Maddens may be high, but her station among them–as au pair to their irascible son, Martin–is undeniably low. It soon  becomes clear that Stella falls short of even the meager specifications her new role requires, most noticeably in the area of “aptitude for country life.” What could possibly have driven her to leave her home, job, and life in London for such rural ignominy? Why has she severed all contact with her parents? Why is she so reluctant to talk about her past? And who is Edward?”

First paragraph: “I was to take the four o’clock train from Charing cross to Buckley, a small town some three miles, I had been told, from the village of Hilltop. The short notice at which I was required had left me with little time for more than a glance at the area on a map, where I had learned only that the two names belonged to the lower part of the county of Sussex, and where I had gained the impressions of a series of subdivisions eventually resulting in a narrow scribble of road and terminating in the dot of my destination. The prospect of travelling away from London was an unnatural one. Some gravitational principle appeared to being defied in doing so. Tracing the route with my finger, the distance seemed more unsustainable as it grew, and once beyond the city’s edge took on in my mind the resistance of an inhospitable element, as if I were nor forging out to sea or tunnelling underground. To me the town of Buckley was as remote an outpost as an Antarctic station, and, still further, the village of Hilltop–represented there by a dot, as I have said–seemed to promise neither oxygen nor human life.”

postcardsfromedgePostcards from the Edge, by Carrie Fisher.

Synopsis: “Carrie Fisher is ‘one of our most painfully hilarious correspondents from the edge of sanity,’ said Vanity Fair about the author of this classic novel of men, drugs and alcohol, heartbreak and recovery…Hollywood style. As timely today as when it was first published, Postcards from the Edge is ‘a wickedly shrewd black-humor riff on the horrors of rehab and the hollows of Hollywood life’ (People)–a witty, vivid, and all-too-revealing look at the dangers and delights of our addictions.”

First paragraph: “DAY ONE: Maybe I shouldn’t have given the guy who pumped my stomach my phone number, but who cares? My life is over anyway. Besides, what was I supposed to do? He came up to my room and gave me that dumb stuffed animal that looks like a thumb, and there I was lying in bed twelve hours after an overdose, I wasn’t feeling my most attractive. I’d thrown up scallops and Percodan on him the night before in the emergency room. I thought that it would be impolite to refuse to give him my number. He probably won’t call, anyway. No one will ever call me again.”

tenantsofmoonThe Tenants of Moonbloom, by Edward Lewis Wallant. 

Synopsis: “Norman Moonbloom is a loser, a dropout who can’t even manage to make it as a deadbeat. His brother, a slumlord, hires him to collect rent in the buildings he owns in Manhattan. Making his rounds from apartment to apartment, Moonbloom confronts a wildly varied assortment of brilliantly described urban characters, among them a gay jazz musician with a sideline as a gigolo, a Holocaust survivor, and a brilliant young black writer modeled on James Baldwin. Moonbloom hears their cries of outrage and abuse; he learns about their secret sorrows and desires. And as he grows familiar with their stories, he finds that he is drawn, in spite of his best judgment, into a desperate attempt to improve their lives.”

First paragraph: “Lashed in the twisted phone wire, Norman was a victim of his own tendency to fool around, but, finally anchored, he became quiet. His brother’s voice was a record played at the wrong speed, reminding him unnecessarily who he was. It could have been the voice on one of those primitive recording ribbons used as a novelty in greeting cards or children’s cheap toys, which emit a shallow resemblance to human speech when you run your nail over their ridges. Yet there was no real loss of fidelity; even in Irwin’s presence Norman felt his brother to be something that was played over and over again. For a number of years he had been away from the powerful incoherence of that voice, but, pathetically, now that he was back, he admitted there was a perverse comfort in its demands.”

blindassassinThe Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood.

Synopsis: “The Blind Assassin opens with these simple, resonant words: ‘Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.’ they are spoken by Iris Chase Griffen, sole surviving descendant of a once rich and influential Ontario family, whose terse account of her sister’s death in 1945 is followed by an inquest report proclaiming the death accidental. But just as the reader expects to settle into Laura’s story, Atwood introduces a novel-within-a-novel. Entitled The Blind Assassin, it is a science fiction story improvised by two unnamed lovers who meet in dingy backstreet rooms. When we return to Iris, it is through a 1947 newspaper article announcing the discovery of a sailboat carrying the dead body of her husband, a distinguished industrialist. What makes this novel Margaret Atwood’s strongest and most profoundly entertaining is in the way the three wonderfully rich stories weave together, gradually revealing through their interplay the secrets surrounding the entire Chase family–and most particularly the fascinating and tangled lives of the two sisters.”

First paragraph: “Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge. The bridge was being repaired: she went right through the Danger sign. The car fell a hundred feet into the ravine, smashing through the treetops with feathery new leaves, then burst into flames and rolled down into the shallow creek at the bottom. Chunks of the bridge fell on top of it. Nothing much was left of her but charred smithereens.”

easterparadeThe Easter Parade, by Richard Yates.

Synopsis: “Children of divorced parents, sisters Sarah and Emily Grimes are observed over four decades and grow into two very different women. Sarah is stable and stalwart, settling into an unhappy marriage. Emily is precocious and independent, struggling with one unsatisfactory love affair after another. Richard Yates’s acclaimed novel is about how both women struggle to overcome their tarnished family’s past, and how both finally reach for some semblance of renewal.”

First paragraph: “Neither of the Grimes sisters would have a happy life, and looking back it always seemed that the trouble began with their parents’ divorce. That happened in 1930, when Sarah was nine years old and Emily was five. Their mother, who encouraged both girls to call her ‘Pookie,’ took them out of New york and rented a house in Tenafly, New Jersey, where she thought the schools would be better and where she hoped to launch a career in suburban real estate. It didn’t work out–very few of her plans for independence ever did–and they left Tenafly after two years, but it was a memorable time for the girls.”

Okay folks, leave your pick in the comments. I can’t wait to see what I am going to read next!

*images from betterworldbooks.com

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12 comments

  1. I’ve only read Postcards from the Edge, which I despised, by the way…so, my vote would be for Easter Parade. I’ve been reading about this book all over the blogs and I want to read it right now! Except that I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy books for one year. Oh dear, what was I thinking? Mom

  2. I would vote for The Blind Assassin, on the strength of generally loving Margaret Atwood. However, The Country Life reminds me of a kind of knockoff version of Stella Gibbons’s wonderful, satirical, hysterically funny Cold Comfort Farm. If you haven’t read that, I’d recommend that instead (how’s that for thinking outside the bookcase?)

  3. I haven’t read any of these titles, and only have read other works by Margaret Atwood, but instead of recommending The Blind Assassin, I’m instead voting for The Tenants of Moonbloom. It sounds very quirky, and a perfect deviation to the neat storyline of GWTW. 😀

  4. I want to be unhelpful and just tell you to read what strikes your fancy, since that’s the only way I can read, but I’ll play along… I haven’t read any of these books, so I can’t really make an educated decision. I think I’ll also vote for The Tenants of Moonbloom, just because it’s the one I’m most interested in! 😉

  5. Both the Blind Assassin and Easter Parade are excellent, so the question I would ask is are you in the mood for a multilayered plot with scifi elements (Atwood) or a straightforward but very, very depressing story (Yates)?

  6. The only book I have read out of these is The Blind Assassin which I have read twice and absolutely love so I would have to out my vote in for that one.

  7. Reading both THE EASTER PARADE and TENANTS OF MOONBLOOM are investments in challenging literary visions. I love Edward Lewis Wallant, whose masterpiece is THE PAWNBROKER, but who also produced a story of an ordinary man’s bereavement, THE HUMAN SEASON, and an allegory about a magical hospital orderly, ANGELS AT THE GATE, before his untimely death. Richard Yates admired him, and his compassionate vision, which focussed on martyr figures. Yates’s THE EASTER PARADE is a fascinating sequel to his masterpiece, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, where a baffled and aware culpability replaces the self-destruction of Wheelers. And the entire Yates canon beckons, backed up by the Blake Bailey biography A TRAGIC HONESTY, which enriches all the work, but certainly featuring the COLLECTED STORIES, an assured classic.

  8. Mom, well, I like Carrie Fisher, and that’s one of my challenge books, so I’ll be reading it anyway. One vote for The Easter Parade! I’ll send it when I’m done.

    Jenny, I have had Cold Comfort Farm on a TBR list forever. I found the Cusk novel through an author’s Goodreads page and added it to my list. now I’ll have to read both and compare! 🙂 Okay, one vote for The Blind Assassin. (I also love Margaret Atwood. I’ve been itching to get at this one.)

    Claire, you make an excellent point. Tenants of Moonbloom has one vote!

    Steph, my fancy wasn’t striking! Or perhaps I should say, it was striking for all five books, and I thought this would be more fun than eenie-meenie-miney-moe. Another vote for Tenants of Moonbloom!

    Teresa, good question. I do like a depressing story, so maybe Yates…but then the Atwood looks so absorbing! Hm…

    Karen, welcome! I found your blog yesterday and I’m so happy you came to visit. 🙂 Looks like we have another (strong) vote for The Blind Assassin!

    Nymeth, “awesome beyond words” is quite the recommendation! Another vote for The Blind Assassin!

    DeWitt, welcome! Thanks very much for that background on Wallant. A friend of mine recommended Tenants of Moonbloom to me because it’s one of her favorite books. Interesting to know that Yates was a fan of Wallant. Looks like I have several more books to add to my TBR list.

  9. I vote for Blind Assassin because I’ve got it on my TBR pile, pretty high priority actually. I might get to it before I head on vacation to Hawaii in mid April.

  10. I would go with Blind Assassin. Actually, I think I might have to read it now too! Thanks for the push…

  11. Matt, your vote is in for Blind Assassin. You just have to mention Hawaii, don’t you? 😉

    Kim, another vote for Atwood! Looks like it’s going to be a landslide.

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