I’m super excited to roll out a new feature here at Shakespeare’s Mom: First Friday Book Reviews!! I’ll create a new page for it in the menu soon so that all my fabulous reviews will be easy to find.
I love to read. It’s probably my favorite thing to do ever. I don’t have a lot of time these days, but I figure that if I commit to reviewing books for the readers of my blog, I will be giving myself a kick in the ass to get more literary up in here.
So. I have no real plan, exactly. I haven’t come up with a reading list or anything organized like that. That reminds me a little too much of the syllabi and lesson plans of my former life and I don’t really need that kind of pressure right now. I’m just thinking that the first Friday of every month, I’m going to give you some thoughts on whatever I’ve been currently reading. Then maybe that will trigger some good conversations about what everyone else has been reading, and we can give each other ideas and feedback. Sound good? Okay great. The Enforcer taught me that if you just answer your own questions all the time, no one can disagree with you. I don’t know why I haven’t been doing it my whole life. She is clearly much, much smarter than I am.
Speaking of people who are smarter than I, (I am soooo proud of that segue, by the way) the first book I’m going to review for you is a collection of short stories called Throw Like a Girl by the incredibly smart and gifted writer, Jean Thompson. She’s a literary genius. I don’t know how she does it. I am in love with her writing. She’s so good that she makes me feel kind of bad about the shoddy-ass stuff I scribble down and throw out there. She’s like The Beatles and I’m like…I don’t know….The Spice Girls or something.
Anyway, I know that some people might be skeptical about short stories. I don’t usually get all jazzed up about them myself. I actually picked up this book from the bargain bin at Barnes and Noble (yeah, not a shelf but an actual bin; they were having a weird clearance sale or something) several years ago. It has an endorsement from David Sedaris (a god among writers) on the cover, and I think that’s why I bought it. Trust me when I tell you, these stories are the best short stories I’ve ever read. And since I used to be an English teacher, I’ve read a lot of short stories in my time.
In terms of subject matter, Thompson covers a wide range of human experiences, everything from the mundane to the divine. She somehow manages to create characters that you really care about within the first page, even the first paragraph of a story, which is crucial when you’re not writing a novel with lots of time for build-up and character development. Many of her characters are young women and girls, and she is one of those writers with the rare gift of climbing inside the head of a teenager and articulating her thoughts and experiences perfectly. I think most of us move on from our teenage years and say, “Thank god that’s over,” but Thompson goes back there and reminds us exactly what it was like.
In the first story, titled “The Brat,” she gives us this gem of a description of Iris, the teenage main character, who is in the car with her mother on the way to school:
“In the car Iris did her best to pretend she was something insensate and boneless, some sluglike underwater creature that did nothing but burp plankton. She let her body sag and roll when the car took the turns. Burp. Burp. Her mother gave her a look of loathing” (2).
And then, in “The Family Barcus,” a story set in the 1960’s that exemplifies American Family Life in that era, the main character says, “I couldn’t stop crying. The sadness had gotten too deep inside of me. That first sadness that comes from family, and never entirely goes away” (81). And I wanted to cry with her, because who in this world can’t relate to that experience?
So to sum things up, get out there and read Throw Like a Girl by Jean Thompson. There are twelve stories in all and they are beautiful and sad and startling and funny. Plus, if you’re a really busy mom or whatever, you can just read a story here and there.
What have you been reading? What books do you love? Check out my list of books I love in “Stuff I Like” if you’re interested. And be sure to check back here, Friday September 6th, for the second installment of First Friday Book Reviews! (I kind of feel like Levar Burton right now. Is anyone else getting a Reading Rainbow vibe from me? I almost just said, “See you next time!” What is wrong with me?)