On the Nightstand

Aside from the Best American Short Stories 2008 collection, I’m well into the book Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. This book has turned out much differently than I expected and in a good way.

It’s a grand story about twin brothers born in Ethiopia. I knew from the book that one of the brothers had traveled to America and would be recounting his story but what I didn’t expect was to get to know the other characters in the story so well. Actually in the beginning we have so much of the backstory about his parents that I almost forgot who the main character was supposed to be. They are fascinating people living in a country that at once sounds beautiful and dangerous. Here’s a bit from the story for you:

“Born in Africa, living in exile in America, then returning at last to Africa, I am proof that geography is destiny. Destiny has brought me back to the precise coordinates of my birth, to the very same operating theater where I was born. My gloved hands share the space above the table in Operating Theater 3 that my mother and father’s hands once occupied.”

I’ve also been reading a bit into What It Is by Lynda Barry and this is one of those books that you almost have to go through twice because you don’t want to miss any of the writing and you certainly don’t want to miss out on all the exciting illustrations.

The book explores how the author, and perhaps a lot of people, love art but something happens along the way, a criticism, a laugh and those forays into art are forgotten. I love this. Here, read this and see what you think:

“By then I knew who the best artists were in our class, who were the best writers. Out of 30 kids there were about 10 that stood out and were good at something. — The rest of us started wishing. I wish I could draw. I wish I could write. I wish I could dance. I wish I could sing. I wish I could act. I wish I could play music. I wish I could be funny. By the 5th grade most of us knew it was already too late.”

Finally, a book I’ve just opened is Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek. From the synopsis: Told from Ellie’s point of view, Tomato Girl takes the reader into the soul of a terrified young girl clinging desperately to childhood while being forced into adulthood years before she is ready. To save herself, she creates a secret world, a place in which her mother gets well, her father returns to being the man he was, and the Tomato Girl is banished forever.

I’ve only just started so can’t comment much but being that I’m an avid journal writer, I love this part:

“Today I carry my notebook and pen down the cellar steps. I stand on a chair and screw in a lightbulb to wash away shadows. Then I sit. The notebook on my lap waits like an expectant child. Long ago, a woman stood by a river and taught me the power of release. She would say I have held things and now I need to let go. I pick up the pen. I need to tell what I remember. I need to tell the story of a girl whose world unraveled like a torn scarf…”

So, what good books are you reading now?

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