Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Two books and a CD

Michael Chabon's very first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, is a very engaging coming of age story about a 21-year-old student named Art Bechstein, whose family situation is sad and bizarre: his father is a money launderer for the mob, his mother was killed by a bullet that was meant for his father, and Art can't speak of this to anyone. Most of the book, though, is about the love triangle which Art has gotten himself into. Art is in love with two people, a young man named Arthur LeComte, and a young woman named Phlox Lombardi. It's hard enough to be in love with one person without spilling any beans about what's going on in your family, but doing that and trying to keep a homosexual affair secret from your girlfriend proves to be impossible.

I hope I'm not making this sound like a comic book! Art B. wants to be close to people, to have good friends, but he cannot achieve this. He is a stressed-out young man who can't quite get a grip on his own life, and so some things just happen to him. He is in denial at times and it's easier for him to simply not think too much about what is happening. I think Chabon successfully demonstrates how the lack of emotional attachments is crippling.

Note: In case I haven't made this clear, I liked this book very much!

Chabon later won a Pulitzer for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. He's becoming prolific, and I need to catch up....


Joyce Carol Oates's Middle Age is an intriguing tale which takes place in an affluent town called Salthill-on-the-Hudson, and in the opening pages, we meet Adam Berendt, a very popular character in his town, who tragically dies a few pages later while rescuing a little girl from drowning during a boating accident.

Adam Berendt was known to everyone in Salthill as a talented sculptor and a warm person who was a confidante to many. His sudden death has a profound effect on everyone who knew him in Salthill. However, it becomes obvious, very quickly, that no one really knew Adam Berendt. They thought he was a poor man, but he wasn't. He had used several names and made millions of dollars. No one could locate his family, or even knew if there was a family. What is Adam's story, and how has he managed to touch people's lives so profoundly?

I enjoyed this novel tremendously, because the characters are all so well drawn and different from each other, and their various reactions to losing Adam reveal much about their individual self-esteems and what they think about love in general. This novel also carries the message that anyone can find a way to make life more meaningful for themselves if they do a little soul searching, and one need not stick to the most conventional path.

While reading about the enigmatic Adam Berendt, I couldn't help being reminded--just a wee bit--of Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride. Both novels are centered around an intriguing mystery-person who has a profound effect on many people. Of course, the books are opposites in that the enigmatic person in Atwood's book has traumatized others, not helped them. Both novels are written in compelling ways.

Both Atwood and Oates are too prolific to keep up with in one lifetime, I'm afraid.


Our newest holiday CD is Diana Krall's Christmas Songs, and it's very nice! My favorite song on this album is not really a Christmas song, though.

Song list:

1. Jingle Bells

2. Let It Snow

3. Christmas Song, The

4. Winter Wonderland

5. I'll Be Home For Christmas

6. Christmastime Is Here

7. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

8. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

9. White Christmas

10. What Are You Doing New Year's Eve

11. Sleigh Ride

12. Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep *that's my favorite.


Ariel the Thief said...

A story that starts when the main character dies can be real good.

Poor Art Bechstein. There are problems in life could be solved only if we could be born again.

TLP said...

I count you among my blessings.

Doug said...

I love the title "Count your blessings instead of sheep." I'm not sure I get it but it made me smile. Oops, a tooth fell out.

Minka said...

I am not sure I like the cover of that CD that much :)
As to the music...never heard her...not consciously, at least!

Frank Anthony Polito said...

Seeing that you seemed to enjoy MOP by Chabon I'd like to warn you NOT to see the upcoming movie adaptation. It's NOTHING like the book!

Check out the official MOP Film Boycott for more info.

PS--Chabon was NOT a student at Carnegie Mellon when he wrote it. He was in grad school at UC Irvine. He did his undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh.

Happy New Year!

actonbell said...

Thanks, Franq.

Lynda Lehmann said...

I've just discovered your lovely site, and you've made me want to read both the Chabon and Oates books.

Incidentally, Atwood and Oates are among my favorite authors! I have seen JCO speak at a local bookstore, and thoroughly enjoyed her. :)