About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

#12 - Trouble

And this one (Trouble, by Kate Christensen (Doubleday, 2009) wasn't terribly exciting, either. From the summary, it sounded promising:

"A vibrant story of female friendship and midlife sexual awakening from the acclaimed author of The Great Man. Josie is a Manhattan psychotherapist living a comfortable life with her husband and daughter - until, while suddenly flirting with a man at a party, she is struck with the sudden realization that she must leave her passionless marriage. A thrillingly sordid encounter with a stranger she meets at a bar immediately follows. At the same time, her college friend Raquel, a Los Angeles rock star, is being pilloried in the press for sleeping with a much younger man who happens to have a pregnant girlfriend. This proves to be red meat to the gossip hounds of the Internet. The two friends escape to Mexico City for a Christmas holiday of retreat and rediscovery of their essential selves. Sex has gotten these two bright, complicated women into interesting trouble, and the story of their struggles to get out of that trouble is totally gripping at every turn. A tragicomedy of marriage and friendship, Trouble is a funny, piercing, and moving examination of the battle between the need for connection and the quest for freedom that every modern woman must fight."

It never quite delivers, though. As Times reviewer Kaui Hart Hemmings put it,
There aren’t any obstacles in “Trouble.” I suppose the main line of suspense is whether Josie will form a relationship with Felipe, and whether her rapture will blind her to her friend’s possible relapse. Blink and you’ll miss Raquel’s downward spiral. Josie certainly does. Yet despite some cursory devastation, things more or less work out in the end. Readers love trouble, too, and “Trouble” doesn’t have enough of it. The best part of this novel comes early on, when Josie is treating various patients while ruminating over her own problems. This is before she talks with her husband and before she knows what she’s going to do with her life. The writing at this point is sharp, clear and often hilarious. Christensen sweeps us through a cast of perfectly delineated neurotic patients in treatment with their distracted, hung-over and anxious therapist. Josie’s adventure with Raquel lacks these interactions with characters who bring out the conflicted protagonist in ways no exotic city ever could. And while at times the women’s friendship is illuminated by Mexico City, all sense of urgency disappears once they are there. Over the border, the tension of the novel is forsaken, and it becomes little more than a travelogue, reducing particular lives to anonymous dots. For a writer, that’s real trouble.

#11 - Waveland

This one was not so impressive. Somewhere, somehow -- maybe just on the dust jacket -- I read something that intrigued me, but in the end, I was underwhelmed. Frederick Barthelme's Waveland (Doubleday, 2009). The one-line blurb in the search results when I google "waveland book review" says the novel, "set in post-Katrina Mississippi, concerns a man, his girlfriend, his ex-wife, her lover and lots of TV," and, well, that's about what I came away with, too. The Times reviewer seemed to like it well enough, but it left me cold. Yes, the characters were marginal, pathetic, scraping by the best they knew how ... but I just couldn't bring myself to care that much.


Yes, I'm back. It's not that I haven't been reading lately (though I have been reading a bit less), but I've been busy doing and, more than that, getting used to the rhythm of my new job, and, well ... blogging has sorta fallen off the radar.

Sooo, this will be a few quick posts to bring the blog up to speed with what I'm reading now. Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, by Ellen Ruppel Shell (Penguin Press, 2009) was awesome. I'm frankly surprised this book hasn't gotten more publicity than it has; for me, it was akin to The Omnivore's Dilemma for the retail shopping sector. More details can be found in the New York Times review here.