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God Bless Ben Franklin

Since I've been out of work, one of the cut-backs I've had to make is in buying books. I'd avoided the public library for years because I knew I had an ungodly fine due there. The last book I borrowed was a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald that I kept out for like two years. I'm sure they were shocked to finally have it returned. But since a paperback is $15, I figured it was worth the effort to stop in one of the many convenient branches and just see.

Well of course they max out your fine eventually, and maybe they even knocked some of mine off since my balance due was a mere 5 bucks. I paid that sucker and started checking out. When I came home with an armload of books, My Kid said, "YOU RENTED ALL THOSE??" I'm like....dude, it's a lending library. They let you borrow them for free.

Here's a rundown of the books I read in the last two weeks:

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg is the story of a women who contracted polio while she was pregnant and delivered her baby daughter in an iron lung. Her husband left her, and she raised the child on her own - the first two or three years in the lung in the hospital, and later at home, able to move only her head. Berg wrote the story because a women wrote to her and suggested she write this book about her mother. Berg agreed to do it, but only if it could be completely fiction. The result is a story set in Tupelo, Mississippi in the 1960s that deals with accepting people for who they are and not judging them on outward appearances. I liked this book. It was easy to read and taught a good life lesson without being preachy.

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill came very highly recommended. It was on a lot of "best of" lists and I'd actually had it on my list of "To Read" for a while. This was the only book that I couldn't finish and that is a real dilemma for me. When I'm not enjoying a book at all, I never know whether to quit or keep going. If I don't like it early on, I feel like I owe it to at least give it a chance, and keep reading. Eventually I'm half-way through and even if I still don't like it, I'm like, "Well, I'm half-way through now...." But this one I finally just put down. It's the story of a women who had been a model in Europe, fell from grace, contracted Hepatitis, and met an older, slightly crazier woman named Veronica in NYC, who died from AIDS. The story wasn't really about Veronica, though, it was about the infected former-model. I think eventually, further toward the end, we would have learned more about how Veronica influenced the other girl's life, or something. Reviews praise the writing as "poetic" but I thought it was flowery and weird and hard to follow. I found myself skipping over whole paragraphs, which is why I eventually decided, "What's the point?"

Neighbors by Thomas Berger is a satire about living in the suburbs. It's supposedly hilarious but I guess I don't really get satire, because I just thought it was weird. Every time I found it to be completely ridiculous and totally unbelievable, I just reminded myself that it was a satire but that still didn't make it funny to me. I found out after I'd read it that it was the basis for the movie by the same name starring John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, so maybe if you've seen that you get an understanding of the book.

Three Junes by Julia Glass is a charming book about a Scottish family over three eventful summers. It takes place in Greece, Scotland, and NYC and is told in three sections. In the first section, Paul, a recent widower, travels to Greece where he deals with loneliness and reminisces about meeting and marrying his wife. The second section is focused on Fenno, Paul's oldest son, who is gay and has left his homeland to live a quite life in Greenwich Village. He is dealing with the loss of the father, memories of his departed mother, relating to his younger twin brothers, and his own inability to form true relationships in his life. The final section is about a young girl in New York, whose husband died in a freak accident. Now pregnant, she goes to stay with a friend in the Hamptons to contemplate telling the father, where she encounters Fenno and his brother. A warm, easy read.

Oh the Glory of it All by Sean Wilsey is the memoir of a boy born to San Francisco socialites. And first of all, can we all just agree that this is the BEST TITLE EVER for a book!! His mother, Pat Montondan, was a manic-depressive "society butterfly turned globe-trotting peace promoter" who once tried to include Sean in a suicide pact. His father was a millionaire businessman looking to climb up the social ladder, so left his mother early in Sean's life, and married her best friend, Dede, who became the ultimate evil stepmother to Sean. Sometimes it was hard to read how unfairly he was treated at his father's house - his bedroom was in the unheated attic, while his step-brothers had luxurious suites; he was only allowed to snack while standing over the kitchen sink; he was forced to sit on the opposite side of the dining table from the rest of the family; the cooks were instructed to cook whatever the step-brothers ordered for breakfast, but Sean was allowed only cold cereal. His father, who was such an imposing character in Sean's life, was completely unwilling to stand up to Dede when Sean complained, saying, "Well those are her boys, I can't control her rules for them." It's no wonder Sean turned into a complete juvenile delinquent. This was by far my favorite book of the group. All 479 pages of it.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a book that I read - or was supposed to have read - my junior year of high school. I seem to remember only occasionally doing the assigned reading back then; this time I read it in one afternoon. I love the story, and I love the characters, flawed though they may be. When I read it now, I hear Mia Farrow's voice saying, "Mr. Gatsby, you always look cool as an ad-VER-tis-ment."

I love book reviews/suggestions from people I can trust. Thanks. I'm going to try Three Junes and Oh the Glory of It All. The Great Gatsby is on deck for me right after I make my way thru my current read - Pride & Prejudice.

Hey, I read Three Junes! I think I read that last summer.

The Great Gatsby, The Movie could have been so much better. But it had that guy from Law and Order in it and Robert Redford, so I can't complain. I just didn't like all the Fake Sweat all movie long. Is Long Island THAT hot? Really?

P&P is one that I re-read every year. I love it. That, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

I read Oh The Glory of It All. Wow....San Fran was a crazy place back in the day. Sean's mom and step mom both sound crazy!

I was in San Fran a few years ago and Dede Traina was still ALL OVER the paper for her philanthropic work and work with the various artistic groups.

After I finished the book, I did a Google image search for Sean's parents and for Dede and was surprized how many photos popped up. I wasn't surprized, however, to see what Dede looked like AT ALL.

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