Showing posts with label Conroy Pat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conroy Pat. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

September 2011 Books - A Month of Memoirs

I have fallen off the wagon in terms of writing full posts on books so am now trying something else: mini posts on all the books read in a given month.  I hope this will be easy enough for me to do - we'll see.  Without intention, this months is all about memoirs.

Reading My Father by Alexandra Styron
Published: 2011
Rating: 5
Goodreads review
I bought this book at the local Border's closing sale because I had just read her father's short but powerful memoir, Darkness Visible, depicting his struggles with depression and suicide.   Her writing is honest, clear and unflinching but not bitter, as she recalls life with a self-absorbed, emotionally volatile literary father and absent mother.  The book documents her journey or quest, via research and writing, towards answering the simple question: "Who was my father?"

History of a Suicide: my sister's unfinished life by Jill Bialosky
Published: 2011
Rating: 4
Goodreads review
Bought this at the local Border's closing sale - how could I not pick this up?  The author's sister Kim, took her life at age 21.  Twenty years later, Jill is searching for answers to the two infamous questions asked by most if not all suicide survivors: "Why" and "Could I have prevented it?"   Like me, she turned to books such as poetry, fiction and non-fiction for understanding.   Heavily dog-earred and underlined, there is a lot that I can relate to.


My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
Published: 2010
Rating: 4
Goodreads review
I have been eyeing this book for months but did not want to spend full price so when I spotted it at a local Border's book closing sale, I couldn't resist. Conroy is a writer but first, he is a lover of books and language (words).  His book collection numbers several thousand.  He reads around 200 pages a day, a habit born in high school.  His passionate chapter on "The Count" (Leo Tolstoy) makes me want to read War and Peace.  Book lovers will enjoy.


My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
Published: 2006
Rating: 4
Goodreads review
Bought this book at a used bookstore in Hyannis, MA.  A quick and enjoyable read.  Julia married later in life and settled in France with her husband, an employee of the State Department.  She quickly became a foodie - to the nth degree.  The book follows her interesting and eventful life as she first learned to cook, then teach cooking while co-authoring the famous Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961).  After publication, she spent time in the US promoting her book  and met famous cooks like James Beard, with whom she became a life long friend.  Upon returning to America for good, her TV show The French Chef made her a household name.

The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman
Published: 2000
Rating: 3
Goodreads review
An interesting foray into the world of serious cooking.  Who knew what it takes to make a terrine, be it seafood, rabbit or duck?  Those who do will love this book.  Those who have no idea, like me, will get an education.





Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
Published: 2004
Rating: 4
Goodreads review
A quick read about the author's friendship with the poet and memoirist, Lucy Grealy whose book Autobiography of a Face was on my TBR list.  I did not realize the connection.  Their friendship began in college and continued through their writing careers - through fellowships, jobs, publishing books and fame.  A major subject of the book, of Lucy's life and thus their friendship is Lucy's distorted face and the sheer torture endured to obtain, through seemingly barbaric means, a normal one.  Lucy is big on talent but short on love and in the end, it all will be too much for her.  She struggles with depression and substance abuse, attempting suicide numerous times.  She dies in 2002 from what is ruled an accidental overdose.  Naturally, as soon as this book was finished, I read Grealy's memoir.

 Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
Published: 1994
Rating: 4
Goodreads review
At the tender age of 9, Grealy was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma (bone cancer) in her jaw.  Treatment was surgery, the removal of part of her jaw followed by 2.5 years of radiation and chemotherapy.  Once back in school, she was teased mercilessly but felt like it was deserved because she was so ugly.  Relief came in college, where she was accepted despite her strange looks,  and she found poetry.  The book ends with her hoping that a brutal surgery to repair her jaw will give her the normal life which she so desperately wants.  Unfortunately, we know from Patchett's book, that it does not work.  We also learn of the fame bestowed upon Grealy when her book was published and as noted above, her descent into fatal depression.  The two books go together to give a fuller picture of Lucy's brief, colorful but tragic life.