not so bad, I suppose

I have had an Amazon credit card from Chase Bank for quite a few years now. I have long used the points from that card to buy many of my Kindle books. I would use the points to buy an Amazon e-gift card which I sent to my email address and then enter the redemption code into my Amazon account. I then bought the Kindle book I wanted. It all worked very well.

I went to do that recently and discovered that the option was no longer available. I further discovered that I can’t even use those points to buy a physical Amazon gift card delivered to me by postal mail. I spent several hours being seriously ticked off with Amazon. Then, however, I did some further investigation and I discovered that I could redeem the points as a statement credit on my Amazon credit card. So, I did that and then ordered my Kindle book which was charged to my Amazon credit card and I was done. As I thought about it, it was actually easier than what I had been doing.

Not so bad, I suppose.


This Is My Life

This Is My Life coverThis Is My Life
Meg Wolitzer
Riverhead Books, reprint edition (March 25, 2014), 326 pages
Kindle edition $7.99 ($4.99 when I bought it), Amazon paperback $8.38

I bought this book by mistake. I meant to click on the description of the book, but I clicked on the Buy Now button instead. Since I had returned a Kindle book just the day before I decided to keep it.

This an early novel by Meg Wolitzer. It was originally entitled This is Your Life, but the movie directed by Nora Ephron was released as This is My Life. When the book was reissued in 2014 Wolitzer decided to use the movie title, partly in appreciation of her friendship with Ephron, who died in 2012.

The story revolves around Dottie Engels, a popular comedian, and her two daughters. We see Dottie’s career peak and decline. We see the daughters becoming involved with men for whom they don’t much care and having sex more to pass the time than anything else. We see Dottie lending her name to a line of clothing when comedy is no longer paying the bills and we see her becoming involved with a man with whom she shares the habit of overeating.

If nothing else Wolitzer does a nice job of bringing the book full circle at the end. But this book was published in 1988 and the author has matured immensely as a novelist over the decades. It was probably worth the $4.99 that I paid. I’m not sure it’s worth $7.99. I would recommend that instead you spend an additional four dollars and buy The Interestings.

You’ll be glad you did.


the correct priorities

I enjoy the “By the Book” author interviews in the New York Times Book Review. In a recent column writer Ali Smith was asked the following question: “What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?” Her answer:

quoteA first edition of Plath’s (or Victoria Lucas’s) “The Bell Jar.” It’s been well loved in its life, it’s fairly barreled and slopy, and there are the remnants of what looks like Chinese takeaway on some of the pages. But opening that package and finding it there was the closest I suspect I’ll ever come to being given a sports car or a pony.

I really appreciate “finding it there was the closest I suspect I’ll ever come to being given a sports car or a pony.” I might not feel that way about that specific title but there are books about which I might have such a reaction.

I think Ali has her priorities straight.


The Marriage Plot

Marriage Plot coverThe Marriage Plot: A Novel
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 11, 2011), 417 pages
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $10.62

I am a sucker for college novels, and I loved this one.

The story takes place in the 1980’s, and for the most part is set on the East Coast. The three main characters are students at Brown University. Madeleine is an English major. Mitchell is a religious studies student. Leonard studies philosophy. Mitchell is the good guy who goes on a Razor’s Edge sort of quest after graduation. Leonard is the bad boy, neurotic or perhaps psychotic, and is medicated with Lithium by his doctors.

The novel opens with Madeleine’s father logically laying out the options for him and Madeleine’s mother to attend her graduation ceremony. Close to the end he logically presents presents Madeleine with her options regarding her apparently failed marriage to Leonard. In between the author writes in the third person but gives us the perspectives of each of the three main characters. He jumps backward and forward in time, but in a manner that is engaging and not distracting.

The ending is not a “happily ever after” one but one which makes perfect sense in the context of the novel.

A good read to be sure.


The Anthropology of Turquoise

anthropology of turquoise coverThe Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky
Ellen Meloy
Vintage, reprint edition (November 26, 2008), 338 pages
Kindle edition $9.99, Amazon paperback $13.63

Ellen Meloy, when she is known at all, is known for her writing about the Southwest. I knew nothing of her until I listened to a course on writing essays from The Great Courses. It is a shame that she is not better known, and it is a shame that she died all to early in 2004 at age 59. Meloy knew how to vividly describe the Southwest and she knew how to style an evocative sentence. In one essay she writes about her childhood:

quoteAlthough I am certain I swam with my brothers or with friends, I recall instead a solitary, private world of sun and turquoise, leaving behind the sultry summer air, the lulling chorus of cicadas, and an interminable girl-boy geekiness to slip beneath the surface and stroke along the silent bottom of the pool—agile and fearless in water honeycombed with light.

The present volume is a collection of essays. While she writes about the Southwest, she also touches on other topics, including the Caribbean and her discovery of her ancestors there as well as the sex life of flowers.

The Southwest, however, is what she really knows. If you appreciate the Southwest you will enjoy Meloy’s writing.


a thought for today

A thought on this day of sadness, depression, and despair:

quote“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

That is the truth. It is the best we can do for now.

Thanks to my good friend Tahoe Mom for the reminder of this passage.


The Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods coverThe Garden of the Gods (The Corfu Trilogy Book 3)
Gerald Durrell
Amazon Kindle edition $9.99
Open Road Media, 258 pages
Purchased during an Early Bird Books sale for $2.99

Gerald Durrell wrote three books about his childhood in Corfu. The first was My Family and Other Animals, first published in 1956. I read that book as a diversion when I was in college in the 1970’s. The second was Birds, Beasts, and Relatives, published in 1969. Garden of the Gods was originally published in 1978. When it popped up for $2.99 as an Early Bird books sale I grabbed it.

You may have noticed that PBS ran the British series The Durrells of Corfu last fall. The series was based on this trilogy, although with a number of liberties taken. The present book is, for the most part, lighthearted. There are some grim moments, to be sure, but Durrell writes through the eyes of his thirteen year-old self and never takes himself very seriously.

The trilogy is built around the context of Durrell’s widowed mother taking him along with his two brothers and one sister from England to live on the Greek island of Corfu. Young Durrell was a budding naturalist even before leaving England and was quite in his element in Corfu. The episodes describe the family, the residents of the island, and Durrell’s forays into collecting animals for his menagerie.

Like My Family and Other Animals, Garden of the Gods is an enjoyable diversion.