On to the books!
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I had this on my shelf ready to crack open when I was reading through Decembers ‘Show Us Your Books’ and learned that most people hated it, so I approached it with some concern.
I loved it. Yes, the style is very different and takes some getting used to, but I was so moved by this book. I was in tears in parts of it.
The story takes part in the graveyard where Abe Lincoln’s son Willie is interred. The graveyard is inhabited by ghosts who are in denial about their deaths. They’re all hanging on to some aspect of their life and are refusing to move on. When Willie shows up they’re surprised to see him not move on quickly like most children do, but you learn that his strong attachment to his father is keeping him around. When Lincoln comes to the grave and can’t help but hold his dead son, I died. And all of the spirits watching around, wondering why it’s been so long since someone touched them too…it was a lot.
I’d love to hear people’s thoughts about the preacher who seems to be the only person with an idea of what’s happening to all of them. That part was really jarring for me. And also the black characters who kind of existed on the periphery of the story. It was odd that there wasn’t more there.
The Bardo is a Buddhist idea for the transitional state between death and rebirth. The graveyard is the bardo for these spirits, but Lincoln and the country are also in a transition period, trying to figure out what kind of a country it’s going to be or if it will be one country at all.
I’d recommend this one. It’s one of those books that makes me miss my old book club because even three weeks after finishing it I’m still thinking about it.
How Bad Do You Want It by Matt Fitzgerald
There were a bunch of reviews about this one floating around on the net about the same time so I decided to give it a whirl.
Before I get to the ideas, a couple of things:
- The Tour de France sounds like the quidditch of bicycling. It’s so unnecessarily complicated. I do not understand why it takes so long and why there are different types of events on different days. This seems custom made to ensure nobody cares about it because how can you possible spectate something like this for over three weeks?
- Matt Fitzgerald’s ability to write race reports for races he didn’t run is astounding. There are a lot of drawn out accounts of single races in this book. They’re exciting, but I’m also taken out of the drama because I can’t help but wonder how did Matt F know so-and-so’s innermost thoughts at this precise moment of the race? The details are so specific. Clearly he’s a real fan and has watched a lot of footage. I can’t tell you hardly anything about what happened yesterday let alone during a race I ran even a month ago.
The ideas though. I was motivated by this book and I would recommend it for endurance athletes. There’s a lot of interesting research and anecdotes here and I can see myself coming back to this book and getting something new from it each time.
The highlight this time was resilience. An athlete has to accept that things will not go perfectly. It does no good to sit around envisioning the perfect race conditions. With experience (through sport or life), the best athletes learn that they can make adjustments when things don’t go perfectly and still get a good outcome.
Life lessons, man.
Romola by George Elliot
I made it 15 pages and returned it to the library. In my defense, I loved Mill on the Floss. I checked this out at the tail end of winter break when I was feeling that delving into a dense, luxurious Victorian novel would be decadent and cozy. Real life intervened and this just wasn’t keeping my attention during my bus commute.
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan – Just started it today. Very good so far.
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood – I got this recommendation from one of the link up blogs and it happened to be available at the library)