Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

Prowess. If the occasion of Toni Morrison’s death leads you to read or reread her fiction, by all means do it. A few days before her death, I read a collection titled, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations, and she has been on my mind in recent weeks. I love her novels, and this collection reveals that same clear voice in personal ways and with vision and deep thought. Whenever and however Morrison spoke, attention must be paid by those willing to learn a thing or two. On some pages, we hear Morrison the teacher, on others, the editor, and on others the award-winning author. Her prowess appears throughout, and I finished reading this collection inspired and perhaps a tiny bit wiser. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The Source of Self-Regard from amazon.com.

The Rosie Result

Project. The third installment in the Don Tillman series by Graeme Simsion is titled, The Rosie Result. Time has flown since the last installment. Don and Rosie’s son, Hudson, is on the brink of high school, and Don shifts his focus from work to parenting and takes on the project lead role for what is the Hudson project. The project involves achieving the right result by following the right process. Hudson has his own ideas and Don and Rosie know that he has to find his own way in the world, with or without an autism assessment. As with the earlier novels, the characters are endearing, the plot interesting, and the humor frequent. Plus, there’s a cocktail bar. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The Rosie Result from amazon.com.

Costalegre

Refuge. Courtney Maum’s novel titled, Costalegre, assembles many elements inside a compact work. War is looming in Europe in 1937 and wealthy art patron Leonora Calaway is arranging for artists and her art to be transported to Mexico where she has a resort named, Costalegre. Almost as an afterthought, she pulls her fifteen-year-old daughter, Lara, out of school to join the eclectic group in their refuge in Mexico. It’s Lara’s point of view that controls the narrative, and she so longs for attention from her mother that readers can feel her anguish. Maum breaks tension with humor and presents the lives of artists with vivid imagery. Maum presents privilege and longing in a lush setting and she writes about losing and finding ourselves as we live in this world of conflict, anxiety and uncertainty. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Costalegre from amazon.com.

The White Book

Meditation. Take a breath. Relax. Feel your heart rate drop. Listen to your regular breathing. Once you’ve reached a calm rhythm, open a copy of Han Kang’s novel titled, The White Book, and calmly mediate with her as she riffs on the color white and explores loss and grief. Let your own memories become triggered by this prose and remember in a gentle way. As all the white images drift by, reflect on the fragility of life. Let the words of this finely written book reach you deeply. If any of that sounds like time well spent, by all means read this book. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase The White Book from amazon.com.

Atmosphæra Incognita

Tower. Fans of Neal Stephenson who have become accustomed to feasting for many days over his epic novels will be as surprised as I was with the snack size novella titled, Atmosphæra Incognita. Packed into this little book is a plot about the building of a giant tower and the technical obstacles overcome to reach significant heights. I recall Frank Lloyd Wright designed a mile-high skyscraper that was never built. Stephenson’s imagination exceeds such a modest effort. Stephenson’s architecture of this story includes great precision and longtime readers will see a master at work on these pages. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase Atmosphæra Incognita from amazon.com.

The Nickel Boys

Elwood. It seemed that I had finished reading Colson Whitehead’s novel titled, The Nickel Boys, just minutes after I started. I was hooked by the story of Elwood Curtis and his diversion from the road to college to serving time at the Nickel Academy, a reform school. Whitehead exposes evil in his exposition of individuals and the institution and the community. Within a handful of pages, readers will become incensed by scandalous behavior and injustice at an institution whose mission entails reform. Whitehead’s fine prose soars on the pages of this novel, and the powerful story is enhanced by a well-crafted plot and complex and interesting characters. If the finest fiction reveals the depths of human behavior and draws readers into feeling deeply, this novel does that expertly. Rating: Five-star (I love it) Click here to purchase The Nickel Boys from amazon.com.

This Storm

Staccato. Readers are bombarded by the rhythm of staccato sentences over the course of almost six hundred pages of James Ellroy’s novel titled, This Storm. Set in Los Angeles in 1942, the novel combines complex and interesting fictional characters with some historical characters and events. The pace never lets up and the complexity increases as the cast of characters grows. There’s a noir mood from cover to cover and dialogue and language that fits the setting may grate contemporary readers. Patient readers are rewarded with avarice, vice, corruption and crimes aplenty. The world was crazy in 1942, and Ellroy draws readers into one slice of the world at that time and throws sentence after sentence at us until we are immersed or bludgeoned. I enjoyed the challenge of reading this novel. Rating: Four-star (I like it) Click here to purchase This Storm from amazon.com.