Welcome to my bookshelf

I am a voracious reader who is constantly found with her nose in a good (although sometimes not so good) book. I felt the need to share my experiences and suggestions, so here it is. Recommendations and comments are most definitely desired.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Currently Reading: Magnificence

"We know so little about our molecules, she thought, the molecules we are ... so little about them.  A proof they're in control: they guide our hands, they make us grow, they form our children inside our bodies - miracles come from them, all that has ever been, all that will be.  Meanwhile our conscious selves perform their rudimentary acts, those simple sums.  What shall I be, whom shall I love: those are the easy parts, behaviors that we call ourselves, they're only the icing, floral borders, all that we think we are is trivial while what we really are is not even known to us.  If there is a machine, a ghost in the machine - they always said the machine was the body, didn't they?  Philosophers? - but no!  The body's both of them, machine and ghost.  The body's not only the vessel but also its spirit, the body is visible but its animators impossible to see.  Materialism, she thought, sure - she might be a proponent.  But she didn't like the flatness of answers, the stolid and dull arithmetic of being, not at all!  Rather the glory of the unseen.  She believed in the ineffable, great mystery, great creation, only that it was lodged in molecules, in molecules, beyond the human ability to see."
Lydia Millet Magnificence Pg 208 - 209

So now you can see what I have been doing through that last long drought between my December post and the last one.  Magnificence, and the previous two novels in the trilogy, have entranced my attention, bringing to life exotic locales and quotidian problems all at once.

In How the Dead Dream, we are introduced to T, a materialistic young man, who suddenly finds his life altered by a random accident.  This accident brings into play one of the main themes of the trilogy, that of animals.  T hits a coyote with his fancy car, purchased with the funds garnered through savvy real estate dealings.  Suddenly faced with the ugly realities of death, T begins following a new path, seeking out endangered and pitiable creatures, and then striving to do right by them.  T's newfound caring attitude is not limited to animals alone, but also extends to the humans around him, mainly Casey, the paralyzed daughter of his secretary Susan.  After following T's remarkable transformation, the reader is left in the dark as the novel ends with T's disappearance into the jungles of a Caribbean country.

Seriously boggled by her employer's vanishing, Susan's husband Hal becomes our narrator and takes on the case, heading down to find T in the second novel, Ghost Lights.  Confused and out of sorts, Hal resorts to calling on the aid of the local people to help him find the missing man.  Despite being beleaguered by translation issues and problems at home, Hal ventures into the wild, coming into contact not only with the regional wildlife, but with foreign visitors from across the globe.  He finds himself struggling between responsibilities at home, midlife confusion, and the lure of the exotic.  Towards the end of the novel, Hal eventually finds T, but all is not well.  Again we are left with a cliffhanger with both men in dire straits in the shady capital city.

Spoiler alert!  The final novel in the trilogy brings the reader back home to California where Susan takes up the role of narrator.  T returns home, but Hal is with him in body only and not in spirit.  After a random altercation prior to coming back to the states, Hal was stabbed and dies, unfulfilled and emotionally alone.  Despite blaming herself for his death, Susan finds herself enthralled by her new surroundings due to the inheritance of her uncle's home.  As she navigates the new world of owning a historic home, Susan is constantly surprised, first by her daughter's wedding to T (although we all saw that coming) and then by her newfound responsibility of being caretaker for T's mother, who is plagued with dementia.  The old house comes with a molding collection of taxidermic animals from around the world.  These frighten and confuse Susan at first, but she finds herself falling under their spell and experiencing thoughts such as those quoted above.  This novel finally gives readers some closure with regards to the characters, but still leaves us reeling as we contemplate the awe inspiring ideas that Susan bethinks.

All in all, this trilogy was worth the hassle of having to request, renew and search out the proper reading order and I am oh so glad I took the plunge and read them all.  At the end of the saga, Lydia Millet proves that she is not only a remarkable story teller, but a giver of ideas too complex and important to ponder over while just reading.  I know I for one will be considering these characters and their experiences for quite some time.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Make Mine a Double

Currently Reading: In the Rooms

Pg 53: "I was just trying to get home without being tripped up, or found out, just like everyone else."

Rather than just having ________ Anonymous groups for addicts and other such troubled people, there really ought to be an HA group, as in Humans Anonymous.  It seems like everyone could benefit from going through the steps, participating in sharing, and just plain having a place to exist sans overt judgement for awhile.

In the Rooms follows the actions of Patrick Miller, a British literary agent who happens to find himself in New York, wading his way through life post-breakup with the American gal he crossed the Atlantic for in the first place.  While walking from one meeting to the next, he catches a glimpse of a reclusive American author and follows said writer to his final destination, an AA meeting.  Determined to find out why Douglas Kelsey dropped off the literary map, Patrick sneaks into the meeting despite not considering himself an alcoholic.  After "attending" a few meetings, Patrick finds himself with an olio of new friends, the exalted author being one of them.  Due to financial strains, mostly due to a divorce settlement, Kelsey decides to finally publish his latest work and asks Patrick to represent him.  What ensues is one disaster after another and Patrick finally realizes that perhaps he actually needs to be attending those meetings far more than he originally thought.  Thought provoking and filled with engaging characters, In the Rooms is a poignant tale that speaks not only to those with diagnosed diseases, but to anyone who has ever found themselves powerless over life itself.

As I have mentioned before in previous posts, I have attended 12 step groups myself and could relate to Patrick's feelings as he unknowingly stumbled along through the steps, failing to accomplish some and completely misunderstanding others.  While not necessarily a proponent of them all (particularly the higher power bits), they actually have some good aspects that anyone could benefit from.  Seeking amends, admitting when you are wrong, taking a moral inventory, all these are things we should each be doing everyday.  Even the whole serenity "prayer" is something I consider often when struggling with personal issues and self-esteem lapses.  Acceptance and then positive action seem to be the main themes of it all.

So to tie this whole post together, Patrick Miller eventually discovers that it may be a good idea to consider those things mentioned above regardless of the flaw or flaws needing to be redressed.  He is a character who grows and learns throughout the story, thus giving readers one of the main requirements of a good read.

PS: The 12 Step link above was found after actually crafting this post.  Hooray for someone humanizing them for us!!  But to be fair, here are the godly ones.