I have been trying to wrap up some books so I can focus on a Really Big Book. I had some recent finds on the library discard shelf. Earlier in the week I picked up George Saunders' Pastoralia (his new collection In Persuasian Nation is available). I can't recommend him enough as a short story writer as good as or even better than Gabe Hudson, Thom Jones, Alice Munro, or Chris Offut he could approach Carver status. He is definitely one of authors I look for when doing a quick triage on The New Yorker's table of contents to see if it's worth saving.
The next day on discard shelf there was a copy of Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. I had no idea it was an actual memoir. I had been under the impression it was a simply a film in which
Hillary Swank Angelina Jolie had earned an Oscar (or a nomination) by garnering the sympathies of the Academy voters for being forced to do a movie with Winona Ryder. It was a difficult book to put down. I fell asleep reading it and then finished it shortly after waking. Years earlier I had schlepped a copy of her novel Asa as I Knew Him around since Army days and I may have even read it. I know I started it. It was one of those Vintage paperbacks from the '80s that showed up in droves on remainder tables like Bright Lights, Big City. Never made the connection to her writing this memoir.
Like the narrator of the book I had been to the Frick, which at the time (1994) I was not familiar with, but I was in NYC visiting and so on a recommendation I went go see the Vermeers. I don't recall the one pictured above that provoked Ms. Kraysen so much. I did end up buying a print of the Officer and Laughing Girl which I liked for the detail of the map in the background as much as I did the subjects. It languished in my closet for several years until a former roommate had it framed for my birthday and now adorns bedroom wall. (I would also have to recommend the movie Girl with Pearl Earring if only for the cinematography. I can't recall a lusher looking film since All the Mornings of the World.) Anyway, I am glad I took a chance on the book.
To maintain the theme of insanity a coworker passed on a copy of Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors. A disturbingly hilarious coming of age story that I had heard of but never got around to. Again, I could not put the book down until I finished it late last night. The film version is due out this fall and it looks like a great cast. I hope they can pull it off without it turning into a farce. I will check out his next two recollections Dry and Possible Side Effects but not until I take a break.
After all these books and watching Born into Brothels, I needed to return to something a little less heavy and so I am concentrating on finishing one more library book, Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart. If you liked Everything is Illuminated then this is a book for you. Excerpt of first chapter is here to check out. Then I take a break from library and try to read the Really Big Book that has been on my shelf for over a decade. (Don't want to say the name yet in case I jinx myself.)