So this sounds a lot fancier than it was. I’d love to say I sat down one-on-one and picked her brain about what is arguably one of the mos successful book responses I’ve ever written for this blog. And we’re obviously besties, I mean Ms. Skloot favorited my “On the Blog” tweet this past year,
but alas I didn’t get to sit down one-on one. However, I did get to attend a really cool talk as part of a Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study of Harvard University lecture series: The Past, Present, and Future of DNA.
I first read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks back in July of 2012, two years after its original publication and a year after it came out in paperback. Apparently this was far enough ahead of the curve that my response was the highest visited response on this site until recently. (Thanks Mr. Coehlo!) Not to be a hipster or anything, but yeah that.
When I found out about the lecture from my friend Martin, I jumped at the opportunity. I remembered really enjoying the book and I knew that it had become this cultural phenomenon through book groups and word of mouth. What I wasn’t expecting was how packed the auditorium was. I’m glad I got there as early as I did because not only was the main auditorium full, but the balcony and two over-flow rooms were as well! It was cool to see Radcliffe up-close and personal as I’ve only ever walked around/by it and never walked through the grounds, unlike the main Harvard campus.
So I felt really guilty about reviewing either one of these short stories/novellas on their own so I squished them together and counted them as one book. Total they are barely 50 pages, but I’m including them anyway. The first, In Another Life, is an ARC from the publisher and I received nothing for my honest opinion; the second, Karma is the 2013 Boston Book Festival 1 City 1 Story selection.
I would’ve read this ages ago if I would only have realized that it was a novella/short story. For some reason I assumed this was a standard 150-200 page love story type novel. Regardless I am glad that I read it, even if it was only 28 pages.
They say that the hardest thing to write of all forms of writing is a short story. Now I don’t know who they are or whether this is true, but I can say I have read really bad short stories and amazing short stories. I think a lot of authors struggle with the finite amount of space and telling a complete story within the short story structure. And although E. E. Montgomery does a great job with this as a short story (or novella as the publisher says), this story would only have been better if it had more meat to it. I will say there were golden passages that made my breath catch and made me want the love the two characters had such as Click here to continue reading.
So I thought I’d wrapped up with The Literary Others event after Annabel, but I realized I had time to sneak one more into the group! And what better to do than add one that someone else suggested. Tom, one of the editors, filled out my lovely comment form and offered me a review copy of The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard and I figured why not add it to this month’s event. And it was at this point I realized I’d read at least one piece of work from Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Intersex, but hadn’t read one primarily for Trans and though it was a great addition! I did not receive any sort of compensation and below is my honest opinion.
This is definitely one of the top three most beautiful books I have read this year. Not only is it well written, but it is well researched and really makes you think without making you struggle to do so. As I haven’t read any of the award winners for which this book was nominated, I can’t say my theory holds that the nominees are generally better than the winners, but that’s still my gut response.
Not that you would want to, because the book is fairly deceptively complicated, but if you had to sum it up in one line it would be the following:
“Sometimes you had to be who you were and endure what happened to you, and to you alone, before you could understand the first thing about it.” (67)
This is definitely one of the themes of the book, along with acceptance and surviving and any other number of things. And it doesn’t just have to do with Wayne/Annabel, but with Thomasina, Wally, Jacinta, and Treadway. And any of the other countless people who lived in Croydon Harbor and are survivors.
I have to say I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected to. It was an easy read and even though it felt like nothing happened, and I remember the movie being very slow because of this, the book went by quickly. I’m still not sure I fully understand the purpose or premise of the story. I guess it’s somewhere between a murder mystery/thriller, told from the murders point of view, and a comedy of errors.
I have never read anything by Patricia Highsmith, but her writing was easy to follow and her descriptions were, I felt, better than her action sequences. I do know there are three additional novels in the Ripley series, but I don’t think I will go out of my way to read them. This first one was enough for me, but if Highsmith’s writing had had more of an impact and not left me just sort of blase at the end of the book I would definitely want to check them out. Surprisingly I had more of a desire to find out more about Ripley after the end of the film, which is distinctly different unless it’s blending in parts from another book. (Anyone know?!)
I wasn’t sure about this book going into it. One of the best books I’ve read this year was The Absolutist by John Boyne, which is the story of a young gay man coming of age written by an Irish author; and one of my all time favorite books is At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O’Neill, which is the story of a young gay man coming of age written by an Irish author.
Overall I was completely underwhelmed until the last 15-20 pages of the book. I think McNicholl did a great job portraying working class Northern Ireland and interlacing just enough of the political landscape to keep the focus on the main character and not the conflict, but I just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t feel like Gabriel was a sympathetic character and I just kept wanting to tell him to shut up. I honestly kept thinking, good grief I hope I wasn’t that annoying when I was his age (even though I’m sure I was more-so).
And here they are, the winners of the first ever The Oddness of Moving Things giveaway!
There were only nine entries for both prizes (I know you’re all hanging your heads in shame for not entering…such good odds). Six for the Amazon gift certificate and three for the Book Depository books.
I used random.org to select the winners and they were #3 for the Amazon gift certificate, who just happened to be the awesome Heather at Between the Covers, who I know is going to buy books that I’m just going to end up having to buy; and oddly enough random.org chose #3 a second time (1-3 instead of 1-6) and the winner was Beth of Too Fond who selected The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Boy Meets Boy, BOTH of which I desperately want to read!
Congratulations to the two winners and thanks to everyone who entered! I can’t wait to read all of your blogs and learn more about you. Check back tomorrow for my post response to Damian McNicholl’s A Son Called Gabriel.