Book Review: On Beauty

August 26, 2008 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Recently I finished reading ‘On Beauty”. I can understand why it made the EW Best 100 books of the past 25 years; the beginning starts off with a series of emails that grabs your attention. We see Jerome Belsey’s emails to his dad, Howard. Jerome is in London living and working with Professor Monty Kipps, we also learn that he has fallen in love with Victoria Kipps.

We get to know the Belsey family. Howard is a professor of art history at Wellington College and his wife, Kiki, is a nurse. They’ve been married almost 30 years and have 3 kids, Jerome, Zora, and Levi. We also learn of the Kipps family. Monty Kipps is an academic rival of Howard Belsey and when he gets a job at the same university Howard teaches in, their rivalry takes a new turn.

I was surprised to have an intense dislike for a majority of the characters in this book but that didn’t take away how interesting they were. Howard cheated on his wife and tried to hide it in all sorts of ridiculous ways. I found Jerome to be, for lack of a better term, a wienie (read about the short lived affair of him and Victoria) and Zora to be brash and self-centered. Who writes 34 emails to their professor?!?!  I also found Monty Kipps to be an obnoxious, pigheaded character and Victoria’s portrayal as a Lolita bothered me. I did love the unsympathetic manner that Zadie Smith wrote these professors and their offspring. Both of these professors committed heinous acts and they both get found out, which I loved. Their prestigious positions didn’t save them from the consequences of their actions.

I loved the vivid descriptions of London and Wellington, and the opposition of the two opposing worlds in Boston, the Wellington University world and the world of the Boston streets, which Levi has chosen to immerse himself in. I found the ending to be a bit unnecessary, if it would have ended 10-15 pages earlier, that would have been better. Other than that minor complaint, I loved the book. The EW list has not led me wrong yet : )

What I’m Reading Now

July 23, 2008 at 6:05 pm | Posted in Books | Leave a comment

In the long days of summer, the quality of TV shows tends to go downhill. Reality shows seem to be taking over the airwaves, and my favorite shows (Heroes, Ugly Betty, Dirty Sexy Money) won’t be back on the air for another month and a half. Therefore, avoiding the ‘idiot box’ has become a top priority lately. Of course, free outdoor events in NYC makes my job easier. I’ve also been exercising outdoors in an attempt to avoid having to use treadmills and elliptical machines indoors (in order to make running on a treadmill bearable, I turn on the TV to watch the reality show offerings on MTV or VH1).

Thanks to the awesome libraries in my neighborhood, I’ve been catching up on notable novels of the last 25 years. EW recently made a list of the top 100 books since 1983 and I’ve been using that list as my guide on what books to check out from the library (saving $ is good). Here are my findings:

Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman: I have previously heard of Allegra Goodman through her book “Intuition”. The subject matter of KF was an instant draw; I have spent some time in religious communities, although probably not as religious as the one Ms. Goodman writes about in her book. The description of KF was so rich, you could see the colors of the leaves changing, the waterfalls. You also saw the good and the not so good side of living in a religious community, you get the social and familial connection but you might also feel stifled, you might feel your options are limited. I like that Ms. Goodman doesn’t outright villanize characters or try to make them too perfect. They are complete people, with their good qualities and their flaws.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving: Wow, what a doozy of a book and I don’t mean only in length although it is over 500 pages. I wish I could write more details about this book but that would give so much away. You experience a wide range of emotions in this novel, and it will leave an undeniable impression on you after you’re finished.

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian: Why none of this author’s books made the EW top 100 list is beyond me. I have read several of his novels and have enjoyed each one. The one book you’re probably heard about from CB is Midwives and that’s because it was on Oprah’s reading list. SATF differs from his previous novels; most of his other novels take place in New England in modern times. SATF is set in Europe during the end of WW II. I am a big fan of CB and historical fiction, I found the change in time and place maybe gave the author a boost, I found this to be his best work yet. There are 3-4 different story arcs that come together near the end of the novel. The main characters are a family who is from what was then called Prussia, they were very wealthy once upon a time and were supporters of the Nazi party. If you were to tell me that I would feel compassion for them, I would have probably thought you were crazy. It is the power of the writing that made me change my mind.  Once you start reading this book, you won’t put it down unless you have unbelievable willpower.

I plan on doing these weekly, or most likely, bi-weekly. Of course, if you come across any good novels, write about it in the “Comments” section : )

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