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bw has commented on (5) products.

Blue Nights by Joan Didion
Blue Nights

bw, January 19, 2012

Hard to choose a best book for 2012. I'm voting for "Blue Nights" because it was one of two books I wanted to start rereading as soon as I finished the last page and because I have been a fan of Joan Didion's writing since "A Book of Common Prayer," but I was disappointed to see her characters become every more dim, hidden behind what she herself has called her "impenetrable polish." She broke through that with "The Year of Magical Thinking" to some extent. She breaks out even further in "Blue Nights." It is not a comforting book, but it is a powerful book. Didion refuses to follow the memoir template in which all suffering is redeemed by insight or reconciliation. I don't think she believes that suffering can be redeemed or that redemption is the point. In any case, she will not look for redemption for the sake of narrative. She prefers to look at the dark and say, "Yes, it's dark, and it exists, and it's part of life, especially toward the end."
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Land's End: A Walk Through Provincetown (Crown Journeys) by Michael Cunningham
Land's End: A Walk Through Provincetown (Crown Journeys)

bw, September 30, 2011

As someone who has loved Provincetown, in all seasons of the year, for many years, I enjoyed accompanying Michael Cunningham on his stroll through Provincetown. His descriptions are personal enough to let his affection shine through and general enough that the book doesn't feel like an it's-about-me memoir. It's about Ptown, a tiny quirky place perched on a scrap of sand that has a big place in many many people's hearts. Reading "Lands End," I almost felt like I was there. I wish I were!
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The Silent Land
The Silent Land

BW, July 8, 2011

"The Silent Land" begins with a married couple on a skiing vacation in the French Pyrenees, up on the mountain early for a ski run in the quiet beauty they have to themselves before the rest of the skiiers are out. When they are caught in an avalanche, one of them buried, the other able to help dig out (a section that was harrowing to read), they are shaken and cold but unharmed. Arriving back in the village at the foot of the mountain, they find their hotel empty, the shops empty. They assume the village evacuated because of the avalanche. Fearing another avalanche, they decide to leave too. But this turns out not to be easy to do, and they have to adapt and draw on their own resources--emotionally as well as physically.

Graham Joyce draws the reader into this eerie world gradually through well chosen details and incidents, in which the couple's ordinary, relationship, which is close and loving but no longer in the first flush of romance, helps to make the extraordinary nature of their predicament believable. In the end, it is the bond between Jake and Zoe that gives the story its emotional meaning, even as the things they experience become more disjointed and frightening. I'm not a fan of the horror genre, and I was surprised to find that some reviewers considered this a horror novel. I considered it a love story set in the Twilight Zone.

This was the first book in a long time I read in a single day--not at one sitting, but every time I could grab some time I sat down and jumped back into it. I look forward to reading it again, probably more than once. There is a telltale clue in the narrative choices Joyce made that I didn't notice until I had finished the book. I can hardly wait to read it again more slowly and closely to see more of how he achieved the force that kept me coming back to read just a little more, just a little more, until I simply had to sit and read the rest.
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The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans by Mark Jacobson
The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans

bw, January 1, 2011

A mixed bag of history and quirkiness, personal observations and historical research; a little like "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" with a more serious purpose and leaving the reader to wonder: What would I do if the lampshade happened to come into my possession? Before you think you have an answer, read the whole book.
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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Time Traveler's Wife

bw, January 1, 2010

If you have ever had a loved one with a mental illness, or have one yourself, you might find that Henry and Clare's situation isn't so far from reality after all. The sudden dislocations they experience are not unlike the dislocations of psychotic episodes. And many people have happy and loving, if complicated and often difficult, relationships in spite of the vagaries of the illness, as Clare and Henry did in spite of their time-crossed meetings and partings.

The main thing for me, though, was that Niffenegger created real people and put them in a world that felt real as one read it. That's what makes a really good book, for me--the author's ability to create a real world out of words and populate it with living beings.
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