SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: INTROS/TEASERS — CLEANS UP NICELY — SEPT. 17

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Today’s featured read is one I won from Gilion, at Rose City Reads. The book, Cleans Up Nicely, by Linda Dahl, is the story of the hard-edged decadent art scene in the 1970s.

 

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Intro:  Her destination, that summer of 1977, is a luxury apartment building, upper Fifth Avenue, a slice of New York life completely alien to her.  After the doorman confirms she’s expected and nods her toward the elevators, Erica crosses a sumptuous lobby tastefully decorated with white leather couches and stainless steel tables covered with lavish flower arrangements.  She is shaking.  She awkwardly recites the all-purpose, three-line mantra that Addie McC. has assured her will always help get her through any situation.  In the paneled elevator, she rides to the floor below the penthouse, where Addie McC. ushers her into an apartment with yet more expanses of white; it feels like entering a thirties movie set—there’s even a French bulldog to go with the expensive view of Central Park.

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Teaser:  Leaving his building stoned only on caffeine, Erica stumbled and reeled as if she were drunk.  She caught a bus, transferred to another, sat with her eyes tightly shut and willed herself not to think of him.  And to her surprise, she was successful.  (p. 125)

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Amazon Blurb:  When twenty-something artist Erica Mason moves from laid-back Mexico to Manhattan in the mid-1970s, she finds a hard-edged, decadent, and radically evolving art scene.

Peppered with characters who could only come from the latter days of the turn-on-and-drop-out ’60s in then-crumbling New York (a spaced-out drummer who’s completely given up on using or making money, a radical feminist who glues animal furs to her paintings of vaginas, and icons in the making like Patti Smith), Erica’s New York is fast-moving, funny, and heartrending just like the city itself. Ultimately, her rite of passage is not only a love affair with art, men, alcohol, drugs, and music in the swirl that was the downtown scene in a radically evolving era in New York, but also a resurrection from addiction and self-delusion.

More than the study of a celebrated period of artistic expression, Cleans Up Nicely is the story of one gifted young woman’s path from self-destruction to a hard-won self-knowledge that opens up a whole new world for her and helps her claim the self-respect that has long eluded her.

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I am eagerly anticipating plunging into this book, a tale that spotlights a long-ago time that means youth for some of us.  What do you think of the opening?  Would you keep reading?

 

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: INTROS/TEASERS – “THE TURNAROUND” — NOV. 27

 

 

 

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

I’m posting my featured book late!  For some reason, I decided to read awhile before getting on the computer…and almost convinced myself to stay unplugged for the day.  It is cozy curled up on my sofa.  But then the inevitable pull drew me here to showcase The Turnaround, by George Pelecanos, a story of family, of violence, and of changing times.

 

Intro:  He called the place Pappas and Sons Coffee Shop.  His boys were only eight and six when he opened in 1964, but he was thinking that one of them would take over when he got old.  Like any father who wasn’t a malaka, he wanted his sons to do better than he had done.  He wanted them to go to college.  But what the hell, you never knew how things would go.  One of them might be cut out for college, the other one might not.  Or maybe they’d both go to college and decide to take over the business together.  Anyway, he hedged his bet and added them to the sign.  It let the customers know what kind of man he was.  It said, This is a guy who is devoted to his family.  John Pappas is thinking about the future of his boys.

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

Teaser:  He ran his hand under the T-shirts and felt nothing.  He closed the drawer and pulled on the one below it, which housed jeans and shorts.  Beneath the shorts, Raymond found steel.  A short barrel, a crenellated cylinder, and a checkered grip.  p. 37

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Amazon Description:  On a hot summer afternoon in 1972, three teenagers drove into an unfamiliar neighborhood and six lives were altered forever.
Thirty five years later, one survivor of that day reaches out to another, opening a door that could lead to salvation. But another survivor is now out of prison, looking for reparation in any form he can find it.
THE TURNAROUND takes us on a journey from the rock-and-soul streets of the ’70s to the changing neighborhoods of D.C. today, from the diners and auto garages of the city to the inside of Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital, where wounded men and women have returned to the world in a time of war. A novel of fathers and sons, wives and husbands, loss, victory and violent redemption, THE TURNAROUND is another compelling, highly charged novel from George Pelecanos, “the best crime novelist in America.” –Oregonian

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Now I’m off to see your tempting excerpts!  Come on by and chat.  And leave your links so I can return the visit.

A LONG AND WINDING ROAD…. — A REVIEW

 

 

 

As a Beatles fan and a person who came of age during the sixties, I was eager to read Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me. Prior to reading this tome, my knowledge of Pattie Boyd was almost nonexistent. I also realized how little I really knew about the lives behind the public images of the rockers she married: George Harrison…and later, Eric Clapton.

In the early sections, Ms. Boyd chronicles growing up in Africa and also describes some of her feelings of abandonment when she was shipped off to various boarding schools. Her relationship–or lack thereof–with her father must have left a hole in her life that she sought to fill through her relationships with men in adulthood.

Aside from the details of her life as a child, a model, and as the wife of these famous men, there wasn’t a lot of Pattie’s interior world that I learned from this book. I didn’t get a strong sense of her identity. Some of her later reflections show that during her marriages, she did not have her own identity, and a strong sense of self was a major ingredient missing in her life.

After the divorces, when she came into her own as a professional photographer and learned to stand alone more completely, I believe that she did finally discover who she is. And when she ponders the disasters that befell some of her friends, those who died of the “excesses of our time,” she concludes:

 

“I was lucky. I survived. I didn’t have the addictive gene or I might have gone down with Eric. We might have drunk ourselves to death. But given my life over again, I wouldn’t change anything. I love music. I loved everything that went with rock ‘n’ roll. I loved being at the heart of such creativity and being young in such a stimulating and exciting era. I have known some amazing people and had some unforgettable experiences.”

 

If the rest of us can look back at our lives and reach these kinds of conclusions, we, too, could consider ourselves lucky. While not terribly insightful, except for the occasional moments, this was a book I enjoyed. 3.5 stars.

A LONG JOURNEY THROUGH GRIEF & LOSS — A REVIEW

Filled with themes of struggle, loss, and triumph, Rain portrays a family through the decades. From the 1960s to the mid-2000s, this journey of one family living in rural Australia is a testament to survival in the face of extremes.

A fire in the mill owned by the Wallin family is only the beginning of what seems like a trail of grief. The theme of rain peppers the pages, too; not just the seasonal rains that bring devastation but the symbolic rain of grief and loss.

But the rains can also remind us of other things, as in this excerpt:

 

 

 

 

 

(Carla, the third generation daughter is contemplating the rain). “I am waiting for the rain to pass so I can hike again through the bush—I go there in search of my guide. There is something about the rain. I have always found it comforting. It makes me feel warm even when it is cold. I love the way it smells, especially the way the bush smells after the rain. I love the way it tastes and I love the way it feels on my skin. Rain is life—everything grows from it….”

When I chose this family saga, I expected something quite different. I enjoyed the symbolism, the struggles, and the persistence of the characters despite the tragedies that seemed to flank them. Perhaps even because of the tragedies. But parts of the story seemed bogged down by a tendency toward “chronicling” the lives of the characters rather than showing them through their interactions and through dialogue.

I did care about what happened to them, but at times, I felt frustrated by the detached tone of the author. I would still recommend this book to those who enjoy family stories. My rating is 3.5 stars.

1970s ISSUES & CHOICES — A REVIEW

Margaret Reynolds is a NY housewife living the crazy, multi-tasking life of a young mother during the 1970s. Meeting the other mothers in the park, keeping track of the sandbox tots, and trying to remember what life was like before—or what life could be again—Margaret’s mind takes her on fantasy trips. Especially after discovering she is again pregnant.

While trying to sort out this snag in her life, at the same time that her mother is pressuring her to move the family to the suburbs, Margaret’s fantasies take her to Fidel Castro’s Cuba and other inexplicable places that seemingly stand in as a reminder that her own daily life is sort of boring.

I enjoyed this book (by Anne Richardson Roiphe) while I, too, was going through similar experiences. Not living in Manhattan, but feeling stifled by the lonely housewife existence.

When I recently read another book by this author, I was reminded of this movie and ordered it from Amazon. I enjoyed it in a slightly different way. The kind of enjoyment that comes from the vantage point of remembering a past existence and reflecting on it in a somewhat nostalgic fashion.

I am giving Up the Sandbox four stars, mostly for the memories evoked, as well as for Barbra Streisand’s great performance.

A TALE OF THE SEVENTIES: FLOUNDERING IN THOSE GRAY AREAS — A REVIEW

In the searing style of Joyce Carol Oates, we come to know the characters of this tale of the seventies: a story of black and white differences, racial discrimination, and the gray areas of morality.

Two girls from very different backgrounds share a room in the dorm at Schuyler College near Philadelphia: A black minister’s daughter from Washington, D. C., and the daughter of Maximilian Meade, wealthy and privileged, yet representing the civil rights of anti-war protestors and terrorists; he is also descended from the founders of the college.

Minette Swift becomes like an obsession for Generva (Genna) Meade, who somehow feels compelled to follow in her father’s footsteps as the savior of the downtrodden. Her efforts to ingratiate herself with Minette (and perhaps win some of her father’s attention) seemingly fall on deaf ears, as Minette becomes increasingly isolated, shutting herself off from almost any act of human kindness.

Throughout Black Girl/White Girl, we come to question the strange incidences of apparent racial harassment, even as we wonder just who is the perpetrator of these events. Then, seemingly in a tragic accident, a death occurs, leaving more questions than answers.

Years later, Generva Meade-Hewitt is a professor at a small state university, visiting her father in prison. She has created a manuscript describing the events of that year in 1974-75 when one young woman’s paranoia and another’s obsession seemingly conspired to set in motion a series of tragic events. Throughout the process, she has been forced to examine her own behavior that year and wonder how her own sins of omission might have led to some of these tragedies.

This tale was not one of my favorites from this author, but I couldn’t quit; I had to keep turning pages, wondering what surprises I might find along the way. Therefore, I’m giving this one four stars.