Bits and Bobs (Again?)

I’ve never done two Bits and Bobs back-to-back before. But since it has been 10 days since I last posted it seems like I might be forgiven.

Game night recap
Christy, Frances, Teresa and I had a wonderful time getting together back on the 6th. I must admit the Penguin game was not all I hoped for. We all enjoyed the bookish questions but the other requirements of the game like loosing or gaining turns or book pieces was kind of distracting for me. But of course all of it was just an excuse to get together and gossip. Christy and Frances were much more timely in posting their accounts of the evening. Apparently Teresa is too caught up in her win to find time to blog about the get together. :)

John and I spent a long Veteran’s Day weekend visiting my family in Phoenix. We had a nice time and the weather was lovely but two days back and my nose still feels like like I have tumble weeds up there. The weather in DC was so wonderfully fall-like both when we left and returned that we decided we needed to leave our Phoenix visits for January, February, or March. Fall is too nice here in DC to miss any of it. Although there is much to be said for the brilliantly blue skies of Arizona. A trip to the desert botanic gardens, the consumption of many tortillas (but only one DQ), and a room with six dogs rounded out our long weekend away.

Parlor Talk
My parents are discovering some classic fiction these days. They both recently finished Jane Eyre. My mom really liked it. When I asked her why she talked about liking all the twists and turns. When the subject of Jane Austen came up I suggested that she might not find Austen as interesting. I was trying to explain to her why I thought that when my dad chimed in and said “there’s an awful lot of parlor talk”. He nailed it. I know many of us like parlor talk (although I prefer Trollopian parlor talk over Austenian) but I think you have to admit that if one doesn’t like it Austen could be quite a boring slog.

Why I think Alan Bennett and Calvin Trillin are two peas in a pod (and other reviews)
You may recall my attempts to clean up the long languishing books in my nightstand. I am happy to say that I have polished off four of those volumes including the ginormous Dumas.

Stempenyu: A Jewish Romance by Sholem Aleichem
This novella is part of the Melville House Art of the Novella Series which many of us tackled in August. I was 2/3rds of the way through this one when the August challenge ended and was so giddy to read something that wasn’t a novella that I kind of dropped this one like a hot potato. Overall I enjoyed it, but the delay in finishing it definitely detracted from the experience. All you need to know about the plot: “…a Yiddish musician whose fame set off a kind of pop hysteria in the shtetl.”

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Another book I started in August, this one was much easier to get back into after an extended delay. Like War and Peace it has so many characters with names that don’t resonate easily in an English speaking brain that one needs to keep looking at character maps too keep them all straight. Also, like War and Peace, Dumas could have chopped off 300 pages and no one would have known the difference. Unlike W&P, Monte Cristo was often a page turner that has one on the edge of one’s seat. This is my second Dumas and I think I like The Three Musketeers better.

If Wilkie Collins had been French, he could have written this.

Untold Stories by Alan Bennett
Bennett has written so many wonderful things that I was quite excited to read this collection of autobiographical sketches, diary entries, and essays. But I think Untold Stories suffers a bit from too much of a good thing. I enjoyed much about this book and I still love Bennett’s work, but I must say I found him a bit tedious by the end.

Family Man by Calvin Trillin
Like Alan Bennett, Calvin Trillin is one of those clever writers who is so good at turning a wry, witty phrase that one begins to consider a pact with the devil in exchange for the ability to write like him. Also like Bennett, Trillin is a master of capturing the essence of a cultural moment and can spin everyday encounters into something that is far more than the sum of its parts. And, like Bennett’s brilliantly funny and imaginative The Uncommon Reader, Trillin’s novel Tepper Isn’t Going Out is one of my favorite books of all time (and Simon liked it too).  Having said all of that, this collection of essays on family life only partially captured my interest.

4 thoughts on “Bits and Bobs (Again?)

  1. StuckInABook November 16, 2011 / 1:25 pm

    I did like Trillin, I did! Oddly, the ones I've bought since (but not read) are all autobiographical ones, rather than novels. I got something about his father, and Deadline Poet.


  2. Teresa November 16, 2011 / 7:39 pm

    It's all the champagne from celebrating my win that kept me from posting, LOL. No, it's mostly just laziness. I agree that the extras weren't necessary, but I thought the questions were a pretty good mix of difficulty levels. Some of them weren't nearly book-ish enough though. I think Frances's game was more of the pure “book” experience.

    And good for you for whittling down that in progress stack. I've barely been able to make any reading progress lately. See above, re: laziness. Also, head cold/allergy attack.


  3. Thomas at My Porch November 21, 2011 / 9:45 am

    Simon: I don't think he has written many novels. Most of his work seems to be autobiographical essays. He did a food trilogy in the 1970s that should be interesting to a foodie like me, but the food landscape has changed so much since he wrote them that it is hard to find them relevant.

    Teresa: I hope you are feeling better. Wouldn't want you sick for Thanksgiving.


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