On Tuesday I gave up "mainstream" book reviews because East Coast and English newspapers drove me to buy too many books. Ann Patchett's State of Wonder was the tipping point. Yes, it got good reviews, but it was less like reading literary fiction than it was a ride through one of H. Rider Haggard's preposterous adventure books. Patchett's State of Wonder, set partly in the Amazon jungle where a group of scientists study the women of a tribe who are still fertile at 70, is not unlike Haggard's She, set in Africa where explorers find a "primitive" tribe ruled by Ayesha, She-Who-Must-Be Obeyed, a woman who has learned the secret of immortality.
Fertility = immortality? Maybe, but zero population growth is a better fix.
I love reading reviews, and I used to enjoy curling up with the New York Times Book Review every Sunday (pre-internet). But it was possible then, and is possible now, to find good books at a bookstore without reading reviews.
No, I miss the literary gossip more, or at least the headlines. "Are Self-published E-book Westerns Ruining Literary Novels set in Idaho and Montana? " "Will the 50th Anniversary of Mary McCarthy's The Group Recoup Self-Respect after E. L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey?"
I am still reading blogs, because many book bloggers publish more than journalists, so I know their tastes, and can sift through their reviews more easily.
The last few days I've spent my review-reading gap time reading and listening to the news. I even started reading an economics book. Frightening.
1. listened to a radio show about rural health care.
2. read some sports blurbs aloud to my husband.
3. read that Germany either is or not ahead of the U.S. in sustainable energy (two different articles in the same publication).
4. read that the "fiscal cliff" is a conservative Republican catchphrase to get us all whooped up about the debt, which is actually smaller than the debt after World War II.
It is so, so not like me to think about these things.
I'll have to find a literary gossip blog.
WORLD BOOK NIGHT.
This year one of the books on the list Willa Cather's My Antonia.
It is not her best, but it is an excellent novel. Set in Nebraska, it is narrated by Jim Burden, who tells the story of Antonia, a Bohemian immigrant pioneer he has known from childhood. As an adult Antonia struggles to run a farm and raise a family (her husband is a deadbeat).
My two favorite novels by Cather are A Lost Lady and Lucy Gayheart.
But I would love to give away copies of My Antonia, and would even write a nice eloquent little pitch for it, if I could think of a good place to give away 20 copies of the book at night.