Well, as I mentioned in my last post, I have not written much in early 08! The gash in my hand gave me several setbacks and it’s been a bit of a struggle mentally and physically.  I did have the great time of reading many books. I revisted my favorite author from my teen years, Madeleine L’Engle and read The Small Rain (copyright 1945) and then the sequel  A Severed Wasp (copyright 1982) written later in L’Engle’s life. The sequel answered the unfinished story from The Small Rain, staring with main character, Katherine, and her life starting out as a concert pianist and in A Severed Wasp, looking back on her career as a musician and reflecting on her past, including her marriage and children.  The books came at the right time for me, contemplating more about my life as a musician, while unable to play for several weeks, brought out some feelings I have not had for several years. Feelings that reminded me why I love music and being a musician in the first place. The books were so powerful for me, in conjunction with my hand accident, that I actually became the character in my dreams. I have continued to dream about life as a musician since I’ve read the books. They were powerful for me in that music is an art-form, an expression, a way of life, a form of psycho-analysis, and a release from the non-music world. L’Engle was also a musician and she writes with all the passion of a professional musician. While the whole of both books really spoke to me, there were a few “soap-opera-y” moments that I really skimmed over. That’s 20th-21st C fiction for us! Writers write what appeals to the prurient interests, from the mild to the wild. L’Engle, is not wild, by the way.

The title of The Severed Wasp comes from an Orwell essay. Quite striking, make of it what you will…

[A wasp] was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him.    ~George Orwell, Collected Essays

How this quote applies is strewn throughout L’Engle’s book. But it really comes to fruition near the end: “…. How could I have been so insensitive? I have been like the wasp, guzzling jam, unaware of my own brokenness…” (p. 385)

L’Engle’s A Severed Wasp closes with this: “When the music had fully entered into her, she began to play.” Isn’t that just beautiful? This is what all musicians want to do. The ultimate composure, the ultimate sense of human as vehicle of music! Music is all that really exists in that moment, in that space of time.

Next, I finished the audiobook version of The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and read by the author. All I can really say is that EVERYONE – EVERY AMERICAN – needs to read this book. A wake up call to life in the Middle East and the crossovers between cultures, and the utter differences between cultures. Extremely well written, excellent character development, gripping tales, shocking, poetic, thoughtful, melancholy.

I was given a book at Christmastime titled Sarah by Marek Halter (2004). The author’s attempt is to write about the biblical Sarah and Abraham, but it was filled with a lot of irritating soap opera-y scenes. I mean, really irritating. This is not a book for feminists. I felt like I was watching Conan the Barbarian or something, just in the form of a book. So if anyone wants this, let me know and I’ll give it to you! I really enjoy historical fiction when it is done well and with accuracy and nicely researched. I did not get the 100% sense that’s what this book contained. Sorry! I don’t usually give negative reviews…..

My last book for this post is Chris Bohjalian’s The Double Bind (2007). This is probably one of the best book’s I’ve read in the last 6 months. It’s the 2nd book by the author that I’ve read and I’m hooked on Bohjalian’s writing style: Literary, intelligent, creative, dark, well researched, deep mystery, and (usually) a great twist at the end (as I mentioned in my post on Bohjalian’s Midwives.) Publisher’s Weekly called The Double Bind “An engrossing puzzle….” which is so accurate. I even read this twice through to get the twist at the end. What makes this book unique is that the author weaves in the story and characters of The Great Gatsby. (Remember reading The Great Gatsby in 9th grade? The real test is to read it now as an adult and see how you’ve matured.) This weaving of characters and storylines was unusual to read and the twist involves this deft weaving right up to the very end under your nose. I don’t want to give anything away, but the sum of the book is brought forth with a great explosion of the reality at the end. Bohjalian is the master of this crescendo of storytelling, giving the reader a great ride all the way to the end, to come to the Mt. Everest-like peak of the story, leaving you breathless on the short way down the end. Excellent! 4 stars! (Okay, so when did I start using stars? As of right now and I think I will go with a 4 star system…. stay tuned!)

I have another Bohjalian book, Before You Know Kindness (2004) in my stack to read soon. I’m finishing a Geraldine Brooks book on the plague in the 1660’s and will post on that soon.

Happy Reading. Stay Safe and don’t be a klutz like me.