Oh, hi there. It’s been a while. Thought I’d just drop by and talk about books for a bit.
I just finished Commonwealth by Ann Patchett this week. I never wanted it to end and I am sorely tempted to read it again right away. I’ve read everything Patchett has published, and I believe this is her very best work. I tend to prefer her fiction more than her non-fiction, mainly because I find her sort of insufferable, but in a likable way. She tries to be self-effacing, but she’s so very privileged and talented (and she works hard) that she comes across as the world’s most inept practitioner of the humble brag. Anyway, that’s not really the point. The point is she has managed to write a family saga that never gets caught up in the misery of dysfunction. The Cousins and the Keatings (and the blended family that results) certainly have their share of weirdness and anger and tragedy, but in Patchett’s tale, they just come across as people brought together by the accident of birth or marriage who somehow learn to co-exist with each other (or the idea of each other) and to have respect, if not love, for each other. I like that she doesn’t play anger or estrangement or grief to the hilt, but instead just lets them be natural reactions to circumstances where those reactions are not necessarily overblown. I’m almost hoping that this book sets up a new model for family dramas. The other surprise about Commonwealth is that it’s funny—and laugh-out-loud funny at times. Oh, I miss it already.
So I mentioned I thought this was Patchett’s best book, so for transparency’s sake, here’s my full list in order from best to pretty good (because let’s face it, nothing she writes is bad):
- State of Wonder
- Bel Canto
- Truth & Beauty
- The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life
- The Patron Saint of Liars
- The Magician’s Assistant
- This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (which also contains The Getaway Car)
Another writer I found insufferable recently (although not in a charming way) was Ottessa Mosfegh. Her interview in The Guardian rubbed me the wrong way. As a matter of fact, I had Eileen on my TBR, but I removed it after reading the interview. The thing is, writers don’t have to be likable. They can be downright unlikable and still be great writers. But I felt like she was insulting her readers, if indirectly, and also other writers, and that doesn’t really work for me. She doesn’t have to do blog book tours or kiss up to anyone, but maybe keep quiet about her contempt. The way I see it is this: plenty of other books on the shelf—plenty of other really good books that were maybe thisclose to being nominated for literary prizes, and Eileen got their spot. I think I’ll read those books instead.
I just started reading All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews. We leave for vacation in Amsterdam next Thursday, so I hope to finish that before we go. Of course, that leaves me with the dilemma of what to read on the plane. Last year I tried to listen to audio books. BIG mistake. I fell asleep and missed most everything, so this year I’m sticking with my Kindle. Possible selections are Sara Taylor’s The Shore and Amor Towles’s The Rules of Civility. I always buy a couple of books at The American Book Center to read on the trip hoe and as a souvenir. This year I’ve got my eye on Tana French’s The Trespasser, but the other one’s a wild card. Maybe Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad or Amor Towles’s new one, A Gentleman in Moscow.
I haven’t written in so long, I don’t know if anyone’s still out there…If you are, what’s your favorite Ann Patchett novel? And do you ever decide not to read a book because the author rubs you the wrong way?
Happy Friday, everyone. Enjoy!