Dory L.'s blog

Half a Life

Half a LifeHow many times have you been distracted while driving and seen a cyclist jut into the road or a child chasing a ball, or even a scampering beagle? You brake and think, thank God. But for Darin Strauss, newly eighteen, setting out with friends for a game of Putt Putt on a warm spring day at the tail end of his senior year, things did not go that smoothly. A cyclist suddenly veered across a lane and a half--and as he braked all he saw was a yellow spoke reflector catch the light and a head crash into his windshield. For him, the worst had happened. The police cleared him, said it was not his fault. The local paper reported this, but Strauss has had to life the rest of his life with the guilt and pain of this accident.
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New Poetry Books

National Poetry MonthIt's April and National Poetry Month is in full swing. It's easy to see why a large group of poets, librarians, and publishers chose April to promote this wonderful art, for as e.e.cummings said, "in Just-/ spring when the world is mud-lucious... and puddle-wonderful." Here are several contemporary books that I found compelling.
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The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science

Age of WonderIf you only read one book about science this year, let this be the one. Richard Holmes has somehow managed to meld a compendium of 18th and 19th century scientific biographies into a compelling narrative that is part travelogue, part scientific exploration, and all magical. He begins with the story of Joseph Banks who travelled the South Seas with Captain Cook as the expedition's botanist, a position he paid for and equipped with many new instruments and two great mastiffs. Banks was one of the earliest westerners to visit Tahiti. He soon learned the language and basically abandoned his botanical studies to become an anthropologist in Paradise.
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Four Huts: Asian Writings on the Simple Life

Four HutsHow did people live long ago? What qualities were essential to the idea of home in classical China and Japan? Did people aspire to a simpler life even before the invention of engines, computers, and electricity? Finally, does a life lived simply promote happiness? This slim volume answers all of these questions.
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Me, Myself & Prague: An Unreliable Guide to Bohemia

PragueAt age 39, Australian Rachael Weiss takes a hard look at her life. On the plus side she's published one book; on the negative side, she works temp jobs, has no husband or significant other, and is just scrapping by. Though school counselors deemed Rachel the "gifted" one as a child, her younger sister is a very successful dentist who teaches fitness classes on the side. She's also raising a concert violinist and a miniature Beckham. Her brother achieved partnership in a law firm and has three beautiful, talented kids of his own. What's a gal to do? Rachel decides that a year hanging out in a Paris garret will help her pen the great Australian novel, plus find a handsome foreigner with high cheek bones. But alas, Paris does not fit her budget.
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Atlas of Remote Islands

Atlas of Remote IslandsJust in time to get us dreaming of summer travel comes this quirky but lovely book about out-of-the-way places. Judith Schalansky grew up in East Germany when it was still situated behind the Iron Curtain. Forbidden to travel, she began a lifelong fascination with atlases and maps. The very names of these islands pull you in: Robinson Crusoe, Takuu, Possession Island, Lonely Island, Pagan, and Diego Garcia.

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Just Kids

Just KidsOne of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs begins with the lines,"I remember you well in the Chelsea Hotel/You were talking so brave and so free." Patti Smith's memoir of her coming-of-age with artist/photographer Robert Mapplethorpe is partially set in this hotel with its unique history and cast of characters.
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Astrid & Veronika

Astrid and VeronikaThis lovely book describes a friendship between a septuagenarian and a woman of 30. Veronika, the younger woman, has spent a lifetime moving, first accompanying her father to his foreign service assignments, then on her own to Stockholm and London before impetuously following a boyfriend to Auckland, New Zealand.
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Let's Take the Long Way Home

Let's Take the Long Way HomeWhat an incredibly moving testament to women's friendship. Two Boston area writers who met at a reading but only came to know each other when they were raising puppies at the same time and their dog trainer suggested that they would hit it off.

Caroline was a rower and essayist; Gail, a swimmer and book critic. Both were determined, competitive, tough, and shy. One of Gail's friends nicknamed her "the gregarious hermit." Caroline's dog was a shepherd mix. Gail finally adopted the pristine white samoyed she had always longed for. Caroline stayed in the Cambridge area where she had grown up, while Gail had left her beloved high-country Texas although she still pined for it.
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Where the God of Love Hangs Out

God of LoveAmy Bloom, who used to be a practicing psychotherapist, has won many awards for her short stories. Her latest collection Where the God of Love Hangs Out examines love in many aspects. Bloom shows how it's possible to fall for an older man with a beer belly who suffers from gout and a life-threatening heart condition. The book features two sets of interrelated stories, the first about two couples--close, long-term friends--whose lives are broken apart and rearranged in new and unconventional ways. The second set of stories explores the lives of a jazz musician's widow and her young adult son, Lionel. These four stories reveal how grief makes some people emotionally vulnerable and susceptible to poor life choices.
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