Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Amazing Thing, and Other Books

The Amazing Thing About the Way It Goes, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Last week, I read that Stephanie's new book was being released on March 5. In that same blog entry, she posted her book tour. It seemed there are events scheduled on both the east and west coasts, but nothing here in the Midwest. So, I got online and ordered her book from our local bookstore.

Two days later, I got an email saying the book was in, and I could pick it up at my earliest convenience.

I read that email, and looked at the calendar (which said February 21), and double checked Amazon (where it still claimed the release date was March 5). I wondered if I should point out this little discrepancy to the book store. Then I thought some more, and decided that if they were willing to release the book early, I was willing to read it early.

Having done that, I now encourage you to find and read it at your earliest convenience. This is Stephanie at her best - witty and wise, poking fun at herself, describing her life in essays that had me laughing out loud.

Stephanie's description of learning to use clipless bicycle pedals was hysterical. Her assessment of the writer's group was spot on (and made me feel pleased, and somewhat smug, that I do write for my blog, at least occasionally).

I love how kindly she describes Joe (to my knowledge, Stephanie has never referred to her husband as 'Fang'). She explains the benefits of her powerful imagination (as well as the spectacularly entertaining disasters that her imagination conjures up). Snap is a sweet essay that explains why we should just give in, and smile for the camera.

I read the story about the family skunk just before going to bed, and dreamed that our basement housed families of dogs and cats and raccoons, all living together happily. There was also a cobra in my dream basement; he made me nervous, and I wondered what Stephanie would make of him?!?

Beg, borrow, or buy The Amazing Thing, and enjoy a good read!

Two other books that I've recently finished are The Best American Essays 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed and Robert Atwan; and The American Way of Eating, by Tracie McMillan.

From the back cover of Essays 2013:
"Each volume's series editor [Robert Atwan] selects notable works from hundreds of magazines, journals, and websites. A special guest editor, a leading writer in the field [Cheryl Strayed], then chooses the best twenty or so pieces to publish."
The essays were essentially short memoirs, stories from the author's perspective. I read them all, enjoyed most of them, and found some incomprehensible. My favorites were those that offered insight into a life not my own: Doyle's His Last Game; Stielstra's Channel B; Schmitt's Sometimes a Romantic Notion; Yoshikawa's My Father's Women; Kerstetter's Triage; Sampsell's I'm Jumping Off the Bridge; and Harvey's The Book of Knowledge.

The American Way of Eating is one of the selections for this year's Reading Together event, sponsored by the Kalamazoo Public Library. McMillan sets out to study our way of growing and distributing food. She works in California farm fields; in Walmart's produce section; and in the kitchen of an Applebee's restaurant. She reports her experiences faithfully, with anecdotes about co-workers and families she meets, with stories from her jobs, and with abundantly researched facts and figures. I did not find it "compulsively readable" or "compelling" (as touted on the back cover). Still, I would recommend it, for the good info and insights it offers.

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