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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Room by Emma Donoghue

I read about this book when it came out last Autumn, but I didn't rush to read it because I thought it would be way too depressing.  I thought of that woman in Austria held prisoner in a basement, and I shuddered. But then this book came up on free library download, so I went for it.  And I'm so glad I did, because it's one of the best books I've read in a while.  It grabbed me by the heart and pulled me into the tiny world where Jack and his Ma live, a place called "Room."  And everything in Room has a name, and often a gender.  Rug is like a person, and Lamp is cheery and bright and all these inanimate objects are Jack's "friends."   Because Ma is a brilliant survivor, a warrior for her son, Jack doesn't know that his world is just a tiny piece of the universe, even though they have a TV.  I wrote more about this world, but then I deleted it because how this ingenious novel unfolds is part of its magic.  How Ma so cleverly helps Jack to perceive the world is what keeps him safe.  This novel is DIFFERENT and SMART and a page turner.  I loved the audio voices of Jack and Ma, but I urge you to read the hard copy if that's what you prefer.  My final word on this book is WOW!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

If you love art and art museums (as I do), you might really enjoy this book (as I did).  I liked both of Steve Martin's other novels; "The Pleasure of My Company"  and  "Shopgirl" (which was made into a movie starring the author and Claire Danes).  Whereas the other two books are set in California, "An Object of Beauty" plays out in the epicenter of the elite, volatile, and (often) bizarre art world of New York City.  The main character is Lacey Yeager, a beautiful young woman who will stop at nothing to make money.  She seems to care really only for herself and does many unscrupulous things in order to achieve more money, and more art.  Luckily, she has some redeeming qualities, such as a wicked sense of humor, and oh yes, she actually does love the art.  Her best friend is the narrator, Daniel, a young art journalist.  But the thread that runs faithfully through this entire very-entertaining novel is the constant reference to famous paintings, with little side trips to Russia and D.C., to broaden the landscape and bring in evermore art talk.  Even the conversation is saturated with art, such as the telling of the famous theft of 13 priceless works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, as shown in the documentary film entitled "Stolen."  This book will make you want to go to (or go back to) the National Gallery, and the Frick, and MOMA.  It will send you running to your computer to google images of Warhol flower paintings, and Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley.  I wanted to know what happened in the end, and I hoped that Daniel would find love.  I remembered the days of my youth, when I was antiquing and would come across Maxwell Parish prints too expensive for my pocket.  I too have yearned to own great art, and so I identified with Lacey at least in this way, and that was enough.