Yes, we laughed, but we’re going to miss him. Could we write him in on the ballot?
And then yesterday I saw Obama’s summer reading list. I love reading lists!
“Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson
“Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life” by William Finnegan
“The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead
“H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald
“The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins
And so I went to a bookstore to look at some of these books. I read a few pages of William Finnegan’s Pulitzer-winning memoir, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, but it must be said I’m not much of a surfer–I’m NOT a surfer! Colson Whitehead’s new novel, The Underground Railroad, an Oprah Book Club pick, interests me more than the others, but I did not buy that, either.
Was I happiest in the ’80s? Well, happy, who knows? But I loved 1980s literature. Although Janowitz’s and McInerney’s partying life-style did not appeal to me, I enjoyed reading about it in Janowitz’s humorous collection of short stories, Slaves of New York, and McInerney’s witty novel, Bright Lights, Big City.
Naturally I bought Janowitz’s new memoir, Scream: A Memoir of Glamour and Dysfunction, and McInerney’s new novel, Bright, Precious Days, the third in a trilogy.
I haven’t kept up with all of their work, but these two seem to be underrated these days. There are fashions in writing. And yet McInerney’s The Good Life is the best 9/11 novel I read, and I also loved his short story collection, How It Ended. Janowitz is always witty–I laughed and laughed at The Male Cross-Dresser Support Group— but one reason I’m drawn to this memoir is that not only does she examine the excitement of her social life in New York in the ’80s but adjusting to marriage, motherhood, and ordinary life in upstate New York. She also describes the care of her aging mother, who had dementia and ended up in a nursing home. (I went through something like this a few years ago with my mother.)
NOTE: Aug. 9 was the third anniversary of my mother’s death. I thought about writing a post, but it is hard to write about the life of a very ordinary person. Her favorite activity, as she coolly told the recreation advisor of the nursing home, was watching TV. And let me tell you, she settled in front of her TV and refused to go to the dining room or do crafts! I despaired but she would not play Bingo. (I wonder: would I?) But I appreciate her stubborn eccentricity and dwell less on her death these days. In fact, I forgot the anniversary of her death until I read Karl Ove Knausgaard’s brilliant novel, My Struggle, Book 1, in which he writes about his father’s terrible death. That’s progress!
And now I can cheer myself up with two good books.