The Week In Books, No. 16

As my third foray into Anne Tyler’s works, I would have to say “The Accidental Tourist” is my favorite so far. I really enjoy Tyler’s talent for packing description into her prose without wasting words – it takes a talented writer to pack so much into half a page. “Accidental Tourist” has a wry humor (the main character writes travel books for a living, but hates traveling, and so forth) that served to humanize the characters and keep them from being annoying. Tyler skillfully draws the reader into her characters, so it seems we are figuring out what they are up to at the same moment they make the realization themselves. I’d highly recommend this book.

I’m still digesting “American Pastoral.” The book follows an all-American boy who just wants a storybook life, but once he seems to have attained his dreams, they are shattered by his psychopath daughter and her shocking act of terrorism. The process by which the main character attempts to make sense of his life results in a bleak, hopeless, nihilistic conclusion. On one hand, this book is a tremendously depressing look at how meaningless life is when you don’t believe in anything other than yourself, but on the other hand it truly is a brilliant representation of a worldview that so many people hold but never have to follow to it’s logical conclusion. Most people aren’t smacked in the face by quite the level of desperation that the character in “American Pastoral” confronts, but if they ever were, they would plumb the same depths. I’d say this would be a great book for a book club, in that there would be a lot of interesting topics: true belief versus ethnic identification with religion; what made the daughter into such a monster; does the reader even LIKE the main character by the end (I don’t), and yet I don’t know if it would work because some of the book contains really raw and disturbing passages that might be objectionable to some readers. At any rate, this is a thought-provoking read if you are up for some grittiness.

The strength of “The Jamestown Project” is in Kupperman’s meticulous research into the historical context of the Jamestown settlement. One weakness of the book, in my opinion, is the fact that Kupperman doesn’t actually get down to the business of discussing Jamestown until page 216. And the book is only 327 pages long, not counting the endnotes and references at the back. I feel like I got a good grounding in the history of what else was going on around the world leading up to the colony, but not a great picture of Jamestown itself. I’m waiting to get another book on Jamestown from the library, and I’m hoping that one will fill in more gaps. The reason for my seemingly sudden interest in Jamestown is that this summer my parents are going to Jamestown with us and the babies to see the sights as Jamestown is celebrating it’s 400th year.

Also Completed:
1 Samuel, John, Philippians

Currently Reading:
2 Samuel, Psalms, Matthew, Colossians
“Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court” by Jan Crawford Greenburg
“By the Banks of Plum Creek” by Laura Ingalls Wilder (to Hannah)
“Training Hearts, Teaching Minds” by Starr Meade (as a family)

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