Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Book Teasers

I decided to do one of those "Teaser Tuesday" things today because I'm running further and further behind on my formal reviews.  Toward the end of 2010, I got four or five reviews behind and I've never really caught up again.  Right now, for instance, I need to do two reviews on books I've already completed, and I'm 80% of the way through reading two others - and about 15% of the way through a really slow-going chunkster.

I finished the new Joyce Carol Oates memoir, A Widow's Story, last week but I'm letting it settle a bit before I tackle a review.  Oates is one of the people I've been reading forever (since the mid-eighties, if I had to make a guess) and I have almost 90 of her titles on my shelves.  She, in fact, represents more than 10% of the books I display on my "keeper shelves."  I am fascinated by her work, but I don't know how to react to this one.  Many of you know that Ms. Oates lost her husband of 47 years, a while back.  A Widow's Story is her very frank, emotional, hold-nothing-back reaction to being so suddenly thrust into the world of widowhood - all because the hospital treating her husband's pneumonia allowed him to die from a secondary infection he picked up there.  I think what bothers me so much about the book comes from realizing how close Ms. Oates came to killing herself...and how long she considered doing the deed.  I'll probably review this one in the next day or so.

Also finished is John Grisham's Playing for Pizza, the story of a third-string NFL quarterback who has been run out of the league and is desperate enough to sign a contract with a team in Parma, Italy, that plays in the Italian version of the NFL.  This one is surprisingly lightweight in tone, plot and characters (even in number of pages) and I'm surprised that so many people seem to love it.  It's the kind of story that had a lot of potential, but Grisham just does not seem to make the most of what he had to work with here.  It's almost like he knocked this one off in between books he really wanted to take his time with.

I'm also reading Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won.  This one is chock full of stats and graphs that disprove many of the myths sports fans have come to believe over the years.  It explores the real meaning and effect of winning streaks, hot hands, icing the kicker, home field advantage, and the like, and is guaranteed to make the hardcore sports fan (no matter the sport) second guess even his most deeply held sports assumptions.  It's fun, but a little dry.

I'm also listening to Scott Turow's Innocent, a sequel to his smash hit of a long time ago, Presumed Innocent.  It revisits Rusty Savitch, now a judge, who finds himself facing the same prosecutor who failed to convict him all those years ago for the murder of Rusty's mistress.  This time, Rusty's wife rather mysteriously (and conveniently) dies and it looks like Rusty did it.  This is a 12-disc book, and I started the last disc on the way home this evening still unsure as to how Turow is going to wrap up everything he has going to this late point in the book.  Edward Hermann does a wonderful job handling about 90% of the book's narration but, unfortunately, Orlagh Cassidy handles the voice of the main female character and her voice is too "old" for the character.  I find her "sound" to be a bit distracting, but her role is limited, thankfully.

I'm also slogging my way through To the End of the Land by David Grossman.  I don't have the book with me in this room, but it must be at least 600 densely-packed pages and, at least for me, it reads very slowly.  I was intrigued by the plot: a mother in Israel refuses to sit at home after she sends her youngest son off to fight in Israel's latest flash-war.  She believes that if authorities can't find her to announce the death of her son, he will survive the war.  I'm not sure where this one is really heading - or if I will even finish it.  I just cannot get into its rhythm.

Now - I'm off to do my first real reading of the day.  It's been another day of office drudgery and meeting with lawyers and VA clerks on behalf of my father for much of the evening.  I need a break...see you tomorrow.


  1. I'll be very interested to hear your thoughts on Innocent. I can still remember enjoying Presumed Innocent and would love to reread that one and then read this one!

  2. I really enjoyed it, but remember that it was an audio book. It is sometimes hard to know if I would have reacted the same way to the written version.