Are There Any Glass Houses For Sale? Asking For A Friend, I Mean Me.

Stories about ordinary families are those which interest me most. Domestic dramas represent humanity at its very core and they are our best and closest chance to become the fly on the wall inside our neighbors’ homes. So now that I sound like a total creeper, let’s move on.

Maybe I am a literary voyeur and I’m ok with that. Human being are both ordinary and strange. We are all over the charts between crazy and sane. I want to read about someone I can relate to or maybe has qualities that I can understand. Would their reaction in a particular situation mirror mine or would it be the opposite? Just something to think about.

I began reading Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman a few days ago and so far I really like it. She reminds me a little of Anne Tyler, who is a wonderful writer of domestic dramas. Hoffman is an author I have known about for years but have never read up until now. Aside from Seventh Heaven I have two other novels of hers on my bookshelf. One of these is Skylight Confessions. Below is the Amazon synopsis:

• Cool, practical, and deliberate, John is dreamy Arlyn’s polar opposite. Yet the two are drawn powerfully together even when it is clear they are bound to bring each other grief. Their difficult marriage leads them and their children to a house made of glass in Connecticut  countryside, to the avenues of Manhattan and to the blue waters of Long Island Sound. Glass breaks, love hurts, and families make their own rules. Ultimately, it falls to their grandson, Will, to solve the emotional puzzle of his family and of his own identity •

Aside from being a story about a family, the major draw to this story is that it features a glass house. The concept of a glass house has always fascinated me. I’ve never been inside one or even seen one other than in pictures. Part of me would love to live in one, but only if it was in the middle of the woods, and I wouldn’t want the bathroom to be glass-those are my only caveats. Have you ever thought about it- could you live in a glass house if given the chance? I really think I would. But who knows, it’s all hypothetical, because I have never been offered that choice. Maybe it wouldn’t be as amazing as my mind thinks it would be. Maybe it would be creepy, I don’t know.

Sincerely,

tmc

PS. Could you build built-in bookshelves in a glass house? Could be a deal breaker.

“What better occupation, really, than to spend the evening at the fireside with a book, with the wind beating on the windows and the lamp burning bright.”

– Gustave Flaubert

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Life Stories

Self-help is a genre that I almost always, without question, completely avoid. Upon seeing a self-help section I usually am rolling my eyes as I quickly pass it by. It’s not that I think that professionals and other experts have nothing profound to say. My problem is that self-help books (in general) have such broad agendas (even when covering something specific) that are meant to appeal to the masses. We are all so different even when going through similar experiences. Also-so many of them feel like a cheap attempt at making a quick buck off of someone grasping and needing so much more in the realm of true self-help. Don’t flip out, there are wonderful (if few) exceptions in this category.

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by #LoriGottlieb is not self-help. I feel like I need to mention this, because the title gives a SH vibe. In my opinion, it’s more of a memoir. This book is fantastic and I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in psychology. I like memoirs and non-fiction. I don’t like someone touting knowledge or advice to someone they don’t know personally; it comes across as strange and flippantly arrogant.

Gottlieb’s voice and timing is on par. She intertwines her personal therapy sessions with those of the patients she sees. I found myself turning down corners of many pages, (don’t cringe-I “live” in my books, and sometimes they get manhandled) which held such resonating passages. This book follows her journey and those of her patients at a pace that feels incredibly human. This book has depth and is one that shouldn’t be missed.

“…I was reminded that heart is just as fragile at seventy as it is at seventeen. The vulnerability, the longing, the passion-they’re all there in full force.”

– Lori Gottlieb

Fierce

Books are treasures. Blah, blah, blah.

Scratch that. Books are fierce. They transport, transform, and let you trespass across any border you choose.  Books have become banned and have been burned.  Their words have the power to destroy, create, exploit, mesmerize, and above all, allow us to think outside our own and often times, rigid boxes.  We, as readers, rightfully devour books. Our teeth drip with words as we hunger for more.

That little description was fun to write. It leaves me with an image of a lion with letters, rather than blood dripping from his ravaging teeth. Another thing, sometimes like animals, we have to hunt. As in hunting down our books.

The Blood of Paradise by Stephen Goodwin is one of my recent hunts. If possible I like to find books when I randomly come across them in used book shops or stacks. However, TBOP was one that over several years of searching I had never laid eyes on. There are two sites I use when this happens. One is Abe.com and the other is thriftbooks.com. In this case, Abe did not have it, but thriftbooks came through for the win.

A little back story. I read a book by Goodwin several years ago title Breaking Her Fall. After reading it I looked up others by this author and found that he didn’t have many, at least not a lot of fiction. TBOP grabbed my attention, so my search began.

Back to the cliched, “books are treasures.” To the average person, a book, short of being a rare edition of something like The Great Gatsby, is worth nothing. The definition of a treasure is something that is worth something, usually of high monetary value. But the other part of that definition is of something actually being treasured. In that sense, a treasure can be anything with meaning that someone holds dear. If it sounds like I’m talking in circles, I apologize, I do have a point coming. In my opinion, books tend to fall more accurately under the treasured part of the treasure definition.

Whatever it is that you value, or hold in your heart, you will staunchly protect. You will defend its honor until your dying day. It doesn’t matter if it’s misunderstood by everyone else. So-if you are a likeminded person, books are are what you hold dear.

And that my friend, is quite fierce.

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.”

– Walt Disney

Speak

I finished Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates about two months ago. I hadn’t read a book by JCO in several years, however another one of her‘s, The Falls, is one of my favorite books. She is an incredible author, who tends to write domestic dramas that venture in to the dark sides of human nature. I would love to hear her speak regarding her long writing and teaching career (Princeton).

Beside JCO, there are a few other authors I would love to hear speak. For the record, just because I enjoy reading to a high degree, doesn’t mean I want to hear all authors speak. In fact, more people really shouldn’t speak, because their annoying-ness tends to creep out. My list of authors to hear is as follows:

1. Stephen King ( he, along with his whole family of writers fascinates me. They must have the best dinner conversations!)

2. Richard Powers (& not because he just won the Pulitzer this year, in fact that prize tends to be more of a deterrent for me, given the list in it’s entirety. RP is one of a few of the PP fiction winners who actually deserves what that prize is supposed to be about.

3. Henning Mankell (but he is dead, so…)

4. Erich Segal ( he wrote only a few books, but of them, Only Love is my favorite and my favorite love story to boot. Love stories aren’t my favorite books, but I truly love OL. However, like Mankell, Segal has also passed away).

5. Thomas Harris ( I read an interview once that said writing a book is a painful process for him. I would like to hear why. His Hannibal Lecter character and books are some of my all-time favorites. Side note, his new book Cari Mora (stand-alone) is released next week, it has been over ten years since his last book came out. Saying that I cannot wait is a huge understatement.

So there you have it, my short list of authors I would love, love to hear in person to speak about their craft.

“Fools have a habit of believing that everything written by a famous author is admirable. For my part I read only to please myself and like only what suits my taste.”

– Voltaire

Henning Mankell

Last night I finished The Girls of August by Siddons (see a pic in my previous post). TGOA was more of a beachy summer read, but it was from my library (via Overdrive app) and library books usually take a bit of precedence. I have read most of Siddons’ books, which mostly take place in southern beach towns. It was a fast read and I do recommend it if you like these types of books. Siddons has been around well before many of the other beach-genre writers.

Anyway, on to the next book. Henning Mankell is a Swedish author who has written a series as well as many stand-alone novels. I first came across Mankell in a book-related article. I began searching out his books. I did find one on my library’s ‘for sale’ shelves and I ordered another from thriftbooks.com ( a great site for used books ). Overdrive has many available and it is where I read my Henning book. Italian Shoes drew me in from the start. Mankell’s writing is superb. I found myself thinking about not only the story but the atmospheric quality of his style during and after the story was finished. Italian Shoes has a sequel titled After the Fire. Interestingly, ATF is the one I had ordered from thriftbooks, not realizing until just a few days ago that is was the sequel. Sometimes I’m just riding the slow bus, no ands, ifs, or buts. When I realized how much I enjoyed IS, I was prompted to look up his series, which is based around a detective named Kurt Wallender. Series are not usually my thing because, well, they just aren’t. From the inside page there looks to be twelve Wallender books and looking at the picture above you can see that I am contradicting myself and taking part in a series, but that’s because Mankell is pretty amazing. His talent was evident from reading just one book. Who’s to say-maybe I’ll read the whole Wallender series or maybe I’ll stick to his stand-alones. Either way, Mankell isn’t writing anything else because he passed away in 2015, so if you are looking for a ‘ new-to-you’ author, give him a try.

“Mankell’s atmospherics…give you metaphysical goosebumps.”

Boston Herald