Sunday, March 11, 2007

Old Friends

Lately, I have not been reading anything new...which accounts for the shortage of posts. The source of this is actually the fact that someone else loaned me a book. I've been trying to get into it, but I haven't been able to. It's an interesting enough book -- The Road To Coorain by Jill Ker Conway, maybe some of you have read it. I guess I'm just not in the mood for it right now. But I feel an obligation to finish it fast, since it's not mine. And I don't want to give it back and admit to not reading it, nor do I want to give it back and lie about having read it. And I'm trying not to start anything else until I've finished it.

So I've been cheating. I dug out a couple of old friends, books I've read over and over, books that I know so well, I almost don't need the book to read them again. It's been a few years since I've done that type of reading. Sometimes I would in grad school, but mostly I read books for school. But then afterwards, I was so excited not to have to read schoolbooks, that I made up for lost time, big time.

I bought Buster Midnight's Cafe by Sandra Dallas at one of those "Book Sale" places that will set up shop in an empty storefront for a few weeks and sell remaindered books. I believe I was around 15, and bought it to read when I went on a cross-country driving trip with my family. Sandra Dallas has since gone on to write historical fiction novels with strong feminist themes (often with quilting mixed in there too). There's a particular image from one of her books that will be seared into my brain forever, of a woman (a neighbor of the main character) beaten by her husband, then tied to a post until she froze solid.Buster Midnight's Cafe is different from the rest of her books. The narrator Effa Commander, now in her 80s, recalls growing up in Butte, Montana in the 1930s and 1940s with her friends. Effa was part of a clique called the "Unholy Three", one of whom, May Anna, grew up to become a movie star. May Anna's boyfriend growing up, Buster, became a famous boxer.

The book kind of chronicles the dark side of these dreams, however. An incident of murder at May Anna's house in Hollywood, for which Buster is blamed, tanks his career while allowing hers to soar to new heights, but costing her Buster's love and making her distant from her friends. May Anna's story will have a familiar ring to anyone who's watched shows like VH1 Behind the Music or the E! Hollywood True Story. But by telling it through her friend Effa Commander's eyes, it makes it seem fresh. Effa (and the other member of the Unholy Three, Whippy Bird) remain in Butte except for a few visits, so the viewpoint is basically that of a privileged outsider. Effa is also leading a life of her own, which she shares with us. It's an entertaining read and has long been a favorite.

My other old favorite that I've dusted off is She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I think this was probably one of the most widely read novels of the late 90s, so I won't say too much about it except that it's still good, and that it still impresses me how well he managed to write from a woman's viewpoint. I remember checking the author's bio after I read it just to make sure that Wally was, indeed, a man's name.

What are some of your old favorites?

1 comment:

cephyn said...

I've meant to read She's Come Undone for years, but haven't really gotten around to it. I also have wondered if I would fully "get it" - not being a female. Do you think it is an enjoyable book by sexes, or do men really miss out on the subtler nuance?