Posts Tagged ‘Helen Simonson’

Listen Now Stories for Old Men Waiting  or download http://www.box.net/files#/files/0/f/0/1/f_732747352.

The fact that 1) Lisa LC picked up and enjoyed Rules for Old Men Waiting, and that 2) we both have recently read and loved Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand  by Helen Simonson led us to a discussion of what we see as an emerging trend in books: those in which men are reflecting upon their lives and, well let’s face it, are doing so as they wait to die -ahem, we mean living out what’s left of their golden years!

So, since we love a challenge, we spent this BookJam attempting to paint an upbeat yet truthful picture of these books while actually discussing narrators who are “waiting to die.”  The books we chose to include are:

Rules for Old Men Waiting by Peter Pouncey

This novel shows us an 80-year-old man who loved his wife and is passionately missing her since she died.  The plot finds him waiting to die so that he may join her again.  Lisa LC says it is beautifully written and completely atmospheric – you will tremendously enjoy the time you spend in the novel’s Cape Cod setting. And you enjoy the time you spend with the man while he waits.

Old Filth by  Jane Gardam

“Failed in London try Hong Kong – FILTH” is a description attached to the main character in this novel – Sir Edward Feathers, a barrister who has divided his life between Great Britain and Asia.  The big question for the reader as you learn about his life is -does this nickname actually apply to Sir Feathers? We both enjoyed the humor, the wit, the knowledge gained from Old Filth as he looks back on his life as a barrister and his loveless (unlike in Rules for Old Men Waiting) marriage.  As the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that this marriage was to a woman, now dead, whom he did not truly know at all.  The cause for all this reflection?  Well, his life’s rival moves next door to the secluded home Old Filth chose for an uneventful retirement.

Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson – The randomness of neighbors jump starts the reflections in this novel as well (See Old Filth above).  When the brother of a childhood friend moves next door to Trond Sander, a man dwelling in self-imposed exile on the edge of Norway, it causes Trond to think back on a day in his childhood where Trond and the childhood friend chose to spend the day stealing horses.  The entire book is beautiful, but bleak.   It also has you questioning what decisions you have made that will become the point (apparent only in retrospect of course) that your life turned.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – Lisa LC describes this novel as “full of energy and youth” with writing that is “unusual and brilliant”.  Do we need to say any more to get you to read this book after that?   In case we do, here is a bit about the plot.  This book is about a book – a long-lost book that  reappears and connects an old man  – Leo Gursky – searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother’s loneliness.  In the present, Gursky is merely surviving, tapping his radiator every day to let his upstairs neighbor know he’s still alive. But years ago, in the Polish village where he was born, Leo fell in love and wrote a book. This book lives on in the life of the girl of this novel.  Read it for details of how these stories connect.

To help those of you who made it through the melancholy and would now just like a book that makes you laugh, we both recommend Family Man  by Elinor Lipman.

The narrator – Henry Archer, a divorced gay man – in this novel has seen fewer years than the men in the books discussed above, but is never the less reviewing his life.  And yes, again the review is instigated by a change in neighbor. (Maybe this podcast should be titled Old Men and Their New Neighbors.)  In this case, his long-lost step daughter moves in with him rekindling a relationship he loved long ago and causing him to reflect on many of his decisions and past loves. If you like screwball comedies, you will enjoy this book. And, if by chance you love Manhattan, you will like the fact that NYC comes across as a character in the Family Man.

We also briefly mentioned Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer as part of the discussion of The History Of Love.

Hmmm Maybe this podcast will inspire some Father’s Day reading/gifts.

Happy Reading!

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Books to curl up with Dec 2010 (Click to Listen) or download http://www.box.net/files#/files/0/f/0/1/f_662868909.

We’ve decided to dedicate a second annual show to recommending a few books that would be perfect to curl up with once the holiday houseguests have left. Or in the case of those of us living in central Vermont, to read while we’re snowed in (like the rest of northern New England). Yippee!

And in between the sledding and skiing, we’ve also added a few titles to the list that we’re hoping to read ourselves.  We will report on the results later. In the meantime, happy new year and happy reading.  May 2011 be full of good books for you.

What we have read and recommend

Perfect for a long winter’s read

Hawaii by James Michener – Having had a bad Michener experience in her youth,  Lisa Christie never thought she would recomend one of his books.  So here it goes. She loved Hawaii.  The saga of how the islands formed from the sea, were peopled by Polynesians, and then shaped by New England missionaries, Japanese immigrants, Chinese immigrants and history is full of interesting characters and decisions.  One caveat, be prepared to devote a lot of time to this book.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson — A very comforting book about the English countryside, class conflict and second chances at love.  The  main character is of another era and delightful – wish we could meet him. This book is lovely, old-fashioned and yet somehow so of-the-moment.

Truly great writing

Let the Great World Spin by Collum McCann – Just an amazing book about life in New York City.  Truly great writing and a thought provoking tale of making a life in all kinds of circumstances.

Almost any title in the Penguin Classics Series — They have developed a gorgeous printing of many classics. The beautifully illustrated hardcovers will make you happy just to hold them while you read amazing tales.  Titles include Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, with Arabian Nights coming this spring.

What we hope to curl up with soon:

Isn’t it time you met this woman?

Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff – A look at the life of the woman everyone has heard of but knows so little about.

Read this and send it to a friend

Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A memoir of friendship by Gail Caldwell — A look at friendship and it’s importance told through the sotry of two women – Ms. Caldwell and Caroline Knapp the author of Drinking: a love story.  A good book for a good friend.

Still a best-seller one hundred years later

The Autobiography of Mark Twain – What could be better? The great author Twain writing about the fascinating subject of Twain.

Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell  – the latest novel by Mr. Mitchell is well written tale of Japan and Holland.

At Home: a short history of private life by Bill Bryson – Our former across the river neighbor dissects the rooms in his English home and in doing so writes a history of why we live in the dwellings we do.

Coffee and a mystery to boot

On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle – A series of mysteries set in a NYC coffeehouse. If you want to learn a little about coffee while reading a light mystery, this series might be for you.

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