21 January 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: True Stories

Books to read in JanuaryDays like this I'm so happy to work from home. It's -1F out there, with a windchill of -21F. Yep, it's really, really cold. I'm also grateful for central heating and nice warm clothes.

We were supposed to get a ton of snow on Saturday, but in the end it was only about 6 inches, which for us is a nuisance but not all that big of deal. The bad part was how wet and heavy the snow was, which made shoveling hard.

I had a busy week last week, but still managed to get a little reading in, though I was very bad at visiting blogs. I'll make up for it in the days to come. If you're in the United States and have the day off work, I hope you're warm and toasty and have some relaxing indoor activities planned.

Thoughts on The Last Whalers by Doug Brock ClarkThe Last Whalers: Three Years in the Far Pacific with a Courageous Tribe and a Vanishing Way of Life by Doug Bock Clark (Little, Brown, January 8): Investigative journalist Clark lived with the Lamalerans, a traditional hunter-gatherer people from the Indonesian island of Lembata, off and on for almost three years. The Lamalerans have a sea-based culture and the sperm whale is their principal prey, which they hunt from handmade boats powered by palm-leaf sails; they even make their own rope and harpoons. Only by obeying their ancestors will they be successful in the hunt, enabling their village to survive another year. This fascinating look into a vanishing culture is part ethnography and part reporting and focuses particularly on how the Lamalerans straddle two worlds. They have spotty electricity and no running water, yet some of the younger generation have cellphones and have worked or been educated in cities or at least bigger towns. They remain faithful to their traditional spirituality but are also Catholic. Clark focuses his account on a handful of families at different places in their lives and facing different dreams and frustrations, giving us both male and female perspectives. Although the Lamalerans' daily life is far different from our own, many of their concerns will be familiar. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio, 11 hr, 23 min), beautifully read by Jay Snyder, but also had a digital copy so I could see the photos. I believe the audiobook comes with a PDF, so look for that. I have no way of judging Snyder's pronunciation of the Lamaleran language, but I assume he consulted with Clark, who is fluent. Snyder was equally adept at conveying the action and danger of the hunt as he was at delivering the more personal accounts of the Lamalerans' stories. (digital and audio copies provided by the publishers)

Thoughts on Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy KnisleyKid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley (First Second, February 26): I've read every one of Knisley's graphic/comic memoirs and have loved them all. Her newest, out next month, is about her journey to motherhood. As with all of Knisley's memoirs, this one doesn't sugar-coat her experiences. The book is not always kind to some of her doctors or to the medical profession's attitude toward women in general. One of my favorite spreads shows a woman with symptoms of plague being told by her doctor that her obvious illness is all in her head. Knisely is also honest about her reactions to women who (at least outwardly) had no trouble getting pregnant or carrying a child to term. Her own experience was quite different and involved miscarriage, uterine surgery, a nightmare of a birth, and a scary hospital stay. I love her art and her candor and am happy to report that she and her husband have a healthy baby boy, who will be the subject of her always personal work in the future, though she has given him the comic book name of Pal to preserve a tiny bit of his privacy. I suppose I should give a trigger warning to this memoir because Knisley had a rough time of it and shares her grief over the miscarriage, her frustrations with the medical profession, and the true danger she was in after giving birth. She also lets us see the overwhelming love she has for her son and the love and support she receives from her family and husband. We know there's a happy ending right from the start of the book, though the path takes us through a dark forest. Don't miss this. (digital copy provided by the publisher)

Thoughts on Sea Lovers by Valerie Martin"Spats" by Valerie Martin, from Sea Lovers (Nan A. Talese, August 18, 2015). This week's story comes from a book that I've had on my shelf for a few years. I started with the first one, which takes place in contemporary times and focuses on a woman who is coming to terms with the fact that her marriage is finally over. She has a plan of revenge, but is she prepared for the consequences if she carries it out? This story was nicely written and made me want to read more from the collection, though I wasn't as drawn to the woman's world as I could have been. Still, I'm keeping the book in rotation and will try another story later in the year.

Note on the short story project: I've been thinking about how to approach my commitment to reading a story a week and have decided to place five or six books into rotation, so you'll see the authors again throughout the year. I'm also going to try to sample new collections as they cross my desk.


rhapsodyinbooks 1/21/19, 8:35 AM  

I really like Lucy Knisley - so glad to hear she was successful with the birth!

Amanda 1/21/19, 8:49 AM  

Thank you! I didn't know Knisley had another book coming out. Looking forward to reading it!

Susie | Novel Visits 1/21/19, 8:52 AM  

The Last Whalers sounds interesting and a little sad that a way of life is slowly dying.

I'm glad that you enjoyed Kid Gloves. A graphic novel is a new approach to a sort of memoir I feel like we've seen a lot of. And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O'Connell from last spring had very similar themes.

Stay warm!!!

Vasilly 1/21/19, 10:13 AM  

I had no idea you were doing a short story project. What are the other collections in your rotation?

Daryl 1/21/19, 10:47 AM  

my two least favorite reads - reality and short stories BUT i do nevertheless always like hearing your reaction/reviews!

Laurie C 1/21/19, 10:53 AM  

The Short Story Project sounds like a great idea and something I should try! I've actually been reading my way through old New Yorker issues that I haven't finished and can't put into recycling bin yet, and so I actually end up reading about a short story a week that way, but I'm too unorganized to blog about them!

bermudaonion 1/21/19, 11:15 AM  

I had no idea Knisley has a new book coming out. I must get my hands on a copy! The Last Whalers sounds really good too.

Laurel-Rain Snow 1/21/19, 12:03 PM  

I like the look of Spats. Thanks for sharing, and for visiting my blog.

Enjoy your week!

Yvonne 1/21/19, 12:24 PM  

I thought it was cold here, but you beat us. Here's it's 7 degrees and feels like -12 degrees. We lucked out and missed the snow they were expecting.

Your books look interesting. Hope you enjoy them and have a good week. Stay warm!

Kathy Martin 1/21/19, 1:42 PM  

We hit -23 yesterday with a -38 windchill and got just a dusting of snow. Central heating is the world's greatest invention. Interesting variety of books this week. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Susan @ The Book Bag 1/21/19, 2:20 PM  

Brrrr! Stay warm. What a nice variety of books you have. I like your idea of short story reading. I should think about doing that as well.

Les in Oregon 1/21/19, 2:46 PM  

That is far too cold! We had subzero temps when we were living in Nebraska and I don't miss that kind of weather one bit! I may complain about the gloomy, damp days we've had here, but the sun is shining today and although it's chilly (40ish), I'll take it over snow and frigid temps any day!

The Last Whalers sounds like a book my husband would enjoy. I'll have to see if I can get a copy at my library. I'm not usually a fan of short stories, but I'm intrigued with Sea Lovers and will seek that one out, as well.

Have a good week and stay warm!

JoAnn 1/21/19, 4:44 PM  

Love this approach to your short story project. I have several collections in NY that I love dipping into periodically... toying with the idea of recommitting to them this summer. Glad you didn't get slammed with snow (18" at our house in NY) but sorry you're dealing with the cold.

Greg 1/21/19, 4:53 PM  

It has been sooo cold- we went out to see the blood moon last night and about froze!

Your books look interesting- especially the first one.

pussreboots 1/21/19, 6:35 PM  

There is no central heating in my house. Thankfully it doesn't get **that** cold here. I have a copy of Kid Gloves pre-ordered. My weekly updates

Mystica 1/22/19, 9:13 PM  

I'd like to read the Lucy Knisley book. It sounds like a tough read but a realistic very personal one.

thecuecard 1/23/19, 5:09 PM  

The Last Whalers .... it must be weird that some have cellphones yet no running water. Holy smokes what a dichotomy. They are in two worlds. I'd like to know more about their island. Thx for the intro about it.

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