Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

Yes, I've returned from my vacation and I'm afraid that I'm having a little mini-crisis. I LOVED not doing anything! Is this the new, older version of the old Sally who can't sit still for a moment? A political junky, only 33 miles from our nation's capitol, and much to Don's surprise, I canceled our planned day browsing museums, eating at the little French restaurant that Maryellen and I found when we were there last year, ( Bistro d'Oc ) seeing a movie that will likely never arrive in Ft. Myers, ( War, Inc. ) all to stay home and swing on the porch and watch the cargo ships ply the deep channel of the Chesapeake Bay. Seldom have I not been ready to come home at the end of a vacation, if ever, until now. And FATE almost agreed with me when we were greeted this morning at 5:30 AM with a dead battery in the faithful Prius. Ouch. Don's dear neighbors to the rescue - I got to the airport on time - in a Jaguar, no less, damn!

So here I am, but oh, have I been reading! Of course, I had to jetison three books and my tennis shoes so that I could return without an overweight penalty on my one "free" suitcase. Still I managed to almost finish Andre DuBus's The Garden of Last Days. I had read mixed reviews, the NYTimes dissed it, Stephen King raved, me....I'd like to withold judgment until the end only because I remember what he did to us in his previous megawatt House of Sand and Fog. Nevertheless, I can say unequivacally that this novel has been riveting for a number of reasons. The author has a way of ratcheting up the suspense by following the lives of multiple characters - always troubled, conflicted, fighting right and wrong yet victims of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The reader just knows that, when chance finally brings these people all together, the outcome may be explosive.

I'm discovering that DuBus has an uncanny knack for interior monologue, especially that of his female characters who reveal their pride, concerns, failings, foibles, intentions and self-deceit. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this novel, in a nutshell, the author fabricates the last several days in the lives of the September 11th terrorists as they make their plans here in Southwest Florida, training to fly, praying for strength, yet swimming in an unprecedented amount of money, succumbing to the temptations of booze and women. Interestingly it feels to this reader that the intentions and motives of these young men are the weakest link in the novel. It is the supporting cast that shines; April and the other single mothers stripping for big bucks at the Puma Club, saving to buy a home for herself and her three year old daughter, the lonely, pitiful clients of the strip club, in particular AJ, separated from his wife and beloved son by a court order, or Lonnie, the bouncer who was a failure at school because of a learning disability but listens to T. S. Eliot in his car on the way to his deadend job.

As always, my reading preferences are not for the faint of heart, but on this one I had no choice. I know everyone will be talking about it and it's huge bookclub material even if we have already had to decide on ours for the coming year. Speaking of books everyone is talking about, I agreed to lighten up a bit on my friend Cathy Jones's recommendation and listen to Marley and Me. Anyone who has ever owned a pet, a dog in particular but I think you cat lovers can relate, will delight in this sentimental story about the Grogans' decision to bring this crazy, loveable lab home and their attempts to tame him into submission. Not! Once I got past the very fey voice of the author/reader I got some laugh out louds from this one.

The only thing that Don and I were faithful to over the last week was our daily walk. He's now working on advanced Spanish - we're trying to find a place we can vacation next year where he can really use his newfound knowledge - and I had my mp3 loaded with four - what I hoped were - great books. I'm not thrilled with the one I've been listening to this week but it had gotten great reviews and it sounded intriguing. I guess it must fill the bill as I'm still with it and extremely curious about the denouement.
It's called A Person of Interst by Susan Choi, whose first novel, American Woman, was nominated for a Pulitzer. This one revolves around a mail bombing in a college professor's office and the subsequent investigation of the victim's colleagues by a rather ingratiating but devious FBI agent - surprise. Told through the prism of observations by the older, less flamboyant, vaguely resentful math professor, Dr. Lee, whose office was next door, this novel becomes less a political thriller and more a fascinating personality study. The reader is in the position of a psychologist with the complicated Dr. Lee on the couch.

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