Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: THE END OF EDDY, by Édouard Louis

The End of Eddy, by Édouard Louis. Published 2017 by FSG. Literary Fiction. Translated from the French by Michael Lucey.

The End of Eddy is a tough read. Sitting somewhere between fiction and autobiography, Édouard Louis tells the story of himself as a boy, growing up in a blue collar town in northern France, a perpetual misfit- effeminate, bookish, and gay in a world where everyone had to be rough and tough.

What you get out of this book will depend on where your own focus is. What I related to was Eddy's (and I'm going to talk about this in terms of the character rather than the author, since it is ostensibly fiction) struggle to come of age in a community and a family that just didn't know what to do with him. For me he really nailed what it's like to grow up in a               world where your possibilities are so limited, and where you face scorn for grasping at something better. The life offered to Eddy involved getting drunk, having sex with girls and working in the same factory that everyone worked in. And because he was different, his life in particular would involve endless, endless abuse and bullying.

It's the last bit that is the most harrowing- the constant day in, and day out harassment and stalking he endured at the hands of his classmates and the terror that that bred in him. It actually feeds his determination to attend a different high school than the one his parents had marked out, because Eddy doesn't want to encounter those boys ever again. Louis really makes the reader feel that fear. If you've ever experienced anything like it, you'll feel it even more. And there didn't seem to be much respite, even with his own friends or family, because he was always hiding and trying to fit in.

He does survive, and he does get out, but the book is a testament to the scars left behind. So I guess in conclusion I would say that I recommend the book but it is disturbing if ultimately hopeful. Louis's style is spare and unadorned, direct.

Monday, July 24, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I finished Why I Am Not a Feminist, by Jessa Crispin, last week, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. It's a quick read- it took me about two hours on a stationary bike over the course of two days- but I have a feeling I'll go back to it again. Next up at the gym starting Wednesday is The Possessed, by Elif Batuman, which I've been meaning to read forever.

I'm still (still!) stuck on my two fiction reads, Smoke and Valley of the Dolls. I really hope to finish Smoke today, even if it means carrying around a hardcover all day so I can knock out 30 pages on the subway.

And my bedside read is the very enjoyable if bittersweet The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra. It was a staff pick at Greenlight Books in Fort Greene, one of my favorite NYC bookstores, and it's great.

What about you?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: BEAUTIFUL ANIMALS, by Lawrence Osborne

Beautiful Animals, by Lawrence Osborne. Published 2017 by Hogarth/Crown/Random House. Literary Fiction. Crime Fiction.

Beautiful Animals lives in that yummy space between literary fiction and the crime novel. Set on the Greek island of Hydra and among the fashionable rich, author Lawrence Osborne tells the story of Naomi Codrington, a young woman retreating to her parents' world of privilege after a humiliating professional setback, and Faoud, a Syrian refugee who washes up on Naomi's playground.

The reader feels right away that there is something toxic in Naomi's idle boredom, which preys on her and leads her to temptation. Crucial to this alchemy is Naomi's burgeoning friendship with Sam, an altogether ordinary young woman spending time with her parents. The women form a bond that just teeters on sexual but never quite loses its balance; both become infatuated with Faoud, a handsome young man whose origins are murky but seems to come from a privileged background himself.

In Beautiful Animals, Osborne treads familiar ground- what happens when the ultrarich mix with the poor and desperate. Faoud is a man of Naomi's own creation; she creates a narrative for him in which she herself will figure prominently, and soon Naomi writes the chapter she thinks will make for him a happy ending. Naomi lives with her wealthy father and stepmother, whom she disdains, and she concocts a plan to help Faoud at what she is sure will be little cost. Of course these things never go as planned, and soon the costs climb higher than anyone could have imagined.

I would love to see a movie made of this book. Osborne's writing is so atmospheric and evocative; you can feel the heat of the sun, the salt of the water and stain of blood as you read. Later on Osborne introduces a kind of detective character and the book wakes from its delicious paresse and takes on a crime-novel pace, then settles in for a low-key, dark finish. Beautiful Animals would be a wonderful choice for the literary reader's beach bag, a great follow up for fans of Katie Kitamura's A Separation or similar. Lawrence Osborne never disappoints.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Playing Catch-Up

I've been away on vacation in New England for the past week or so and reading reading reading.

Remember my summer reading post? Well I've been working my way through that stack and have read Beautiful Animals, by Lawrence Osborne, and See What I Have Done, by Sarah Schmidt.

I recommend both for the beach bag this summer- Beautiful Animals is out now and is both a typical Osborne novel- suspenseful, tragic, and dark with delicious renderings of place, in this case Greece- and an interesting entry into the group of books coming out now about the refugee crisis.

See What I Have Done is about Lizzie Borden and the murders she was suspected of committing in Fall River, Massachusetts, in 1892. Author Sarah Schmidt preserves the essential mystery but still creates a truly creepy portrait of Lizzie.

When I wrote that post I forgot to include Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann, that 1966 trash classic, which I picked for my trash read of the summer. That's what I'm reading now and it's a lot of fun, a girly bildungsroman about a stuffy New Englander who moves to New York in 1945 and finds her way to who knows what.

I still have Smoke hanging around and I plan to finish it. It's just one of those books that lingers- no pun intended. I do want to see it how it ends.

While on vacation I added a couple of books to my shelf too-Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, and Lavie Tidhar's new book A Man Lies Dreaming.  I also picked up a galley of Alex Gilvarry's Eastman was Here, to be published in August. I was a big fan of his first book, From the Memoirs of an Enemy Non-Combatant.

How is your summer reading going? What's in your beach bag or on your picnic blanket? What new releases are you looking forward to?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

What Goes Through Your Head When You Enter a Bookstore?

Barnes & Noble published this fun list on their website: 23 Things We Think Upon Entering a Bookstore.

I think some of these things; I also think other things. Some of the things I think are:

  • That instant sense of calm when I walk in. That instant sense of "this is for me, these are my people and this is where I belong."
  • Where are the new releases? I have to go straight there and see what's out that I don't know about, and that I'm excited about.
  • Staff picks! I love staff picks because it's fun to see what other book nerds love to read.
  • What kinds of issues do they spotlight in nonfiction? This can be a great way to get a bead on a bookstore's (and a community's) interests and priorities.
  • Hello, fellow bookseller! Bookstores with friendly booksellers get follow-up visits from Marie.
  • Hopefully they have a café. I love bookstore cafés. And hopefully I can find a seat. Bonus points for ginger lemonade.
  • Look at all paperback pretties. A good bookstore always has a great table of new and favorite paperbacks.
  • Oh, there's that book I want. And that other one. And that other one.
  • I swear I won't buy anything today. I mean I don't have to buy a book EVERY time I go. But I should support indie bookstores... it's my duty...
  • That's a cool tote bag. But I don't need another totebag. Oh, you're going to give me one cause I just dropped a bundle in your store? Well, if you insist.
  • Same for tee shirts. That one has a picture of a book on it! Sold.
  • I could get it at the library, but I could do a lot of things.
You get the idea. What do you think in a bookstore?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

How to be a Francophile in NYC

It's July and it's a book blogger tradition to post about France during the month of July. I want to start off by showing off some of the French things I love about New York City.

First of all I just love that there are so many French people here. I speak French to someone at least once a week- on the subway, at work, around my town.

I love the French Institute/Alliance Française, headquarters for all things French in NYC. They have a fabulous library, including ebooks, movies, graphic novels (or bandes dessinées as they call them) and a free movie series every Tuesday. Membership also gets you discounts at a bouquet of French businesses in the city.

I love Vosges, La Durée, the macaron trend and all the French bistros throughout the city. For high-end shoppers (not me), there are many French designers with shops and flagships here, like agnès b. and Chanel and such.

Albertine, 972 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY
High end restaurants like Le Cirque also abound, but for everyday, I love the profusion of French bakeries. In my old neighborhood of Forest Hills there was La Boulangerie, and here in Jersey there is Choc-o-Pain, both local treasures brimming with irresistible treats, hearty sandwiches, great coffee and fresh bread every day.

And that's just two of the dozens of French bakeries in NYC. (Dominque Ansel, creator of the famous cronuts, is another, in the West Village. And there are so many others- just walk down the street.)

Brooklyn-based designers Obvious State makes the most adorable totes and mugs with French sayings on them. I want one (of each) so badly.

I love Albertine, the French bookstore on the Upper East Side. Its beautiful building contains French language original books, translations into French of literature from all over the world and translations into English of French and Francophone literature new and old.

Idlewild Books is great for the traveler and Francophile, and they offer language lessons too. They are the only travel bookstore in NYC, I believe. (Correct me if I'm wrong in the comments.)

And finally I love the variety of independent movie houses that show French movies, and all the programming the French Embassy publicizes and helps sponsor. Comedians, concerts, plays, you name it. NYC is a great place to be a Francophile.

Monday, July 3, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I finished several books this week- The End of Eddy, by Edouard Louis, La femme aux pieds nus, by Scholastique Mukasonga, and The Making of Jane Austen, by Devoney Looser.

Which means I get to start some new ones.

I started reading A Doll's Alphabet, an upcoming book of short stories by Camilla Grudova; it comes out in October and would be great for fans of Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood and the like. 

Still working my way through Smoke, by Dan Vyleta; I put it down while I was reading The End of Eddy but I'd like to finish it this week. Hopefully I can!

On the nightstand now is Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music. So far so good.

As far as what's next for me, I'm picking from my list of summer reads and starting with Claire Messud's The Burning Girl. I'm on set today and will probably have some time to read. I'll keep you posted. In the mean time have a great Fourth of July tomorrow and let me know in the comments what you're reading.

Monday, June 26, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, and I'm reading too much.

Still working my way through Smoke, by Dan Vyleta, which is a great plot-centric thriller set in an alternative version of England in the nineteenth century, where people wear their feelings on their body through a smoke that rises from them when they have bad thoughts or do bad things. What's at the bottom of all this, and can anything be done to allow people to live without visible embodiments of their shame?

I started reading Edouard Louis's autobiographical novel The End of Eddy, translated from the French. It's about a young boy growing up gay in a working-class French village and the abuse and bullying he endures, as well as how the attitudes of his town shape him in other ways. It's entrancing and difficult and I highly recommend it.

Finally I am reading La femme aux pieds nus, by Scholastique Mukasonga, about growing up in Rwanda and trying to stay alive during the civil war. It's a memoir of her murdered mother whose body she never found and it's profoundly moving. I'm going to have to get in touch with Gallimard, the French publisher, to see if a translation would be possible because I'm loving it that much.

And on the bedside table is still The Making of Jane Austen, by Devoney Looser, which I expect to finish this week. Then I'll be taking a break from Jane books!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Salon

Now we're getting into the real stream of summer weather- beautiful warm sunny days every day, or just about.

Yesterday we visited two new-to-me quilt shops in the area and took a nice drive into upstate New York. It's beautiful right along the Hudson; I'm sorry I didn't take any pictures but it's difficult to do so from the car.  There was a kayaking competition nearby sponsored by a local Hawaiian group and the day included hula dancers and Hawaiian snacks and music. It was really nice; we only got to walk by at the end because we were out but it was still fun. Today I'm working in the afternoon and I'm looking forward to that. It should be a good day.

I'm almost done with the first English draft of the book I'm translating, Mon Secret; I just need to finish the last couple of pages and type it up. I'm hoping to get that done on Monday or Tuesday. Translating really forces you into the nooks and crannies of a work and I'm appreciating this one more and more as I dig into it. It's written as a letter from mother to daughter and it's so emotional and raw. The biggest challenge is making it readable in English without losing that sense I have of touching an open wound.

Additionally I joined (again) the French Institute here in New York, which has a great lending library of contemporary French literature as well as access to ebooks and other media. They also have free movies on Tuesdays, which is a great perk.

This week looks sort of quiet right now but that can turn on a dime. What are you up to today? Have a great Sunday.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

What I'm Reading This Summer

*subject to me changing my mind

So like a lot of people I'm thinking about summer reading and pulling things from my TBR piles to have handy on trips, weekends and the lazy afternoons and evenings to come. Summer just makes you want to sit around and when I sit around I typically have a book or two in hand. Here are some new releases I'm looking forward to during the dog days.

The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry. This book, a hit in Great Britain, is a historical novel about a widow who stumbles on a local myth and a compelling stranger.

Beautiful Animals, by Laurence Osborne. I always look forward to Osborne's mesmerizing novels, always a heady mix of compelling plot and travelogue-ready setting.

Less, by Andrew Sean Greer, is my pick for beach book of the summer, about a man who's turning 50 as his much-younger boyfriend is about to get married. It's been called a "breakout romantic comedy" from this author of literary novels. I can't wait to tuck it into my boat-and-tote when I hit the beaches of Nantucket this season.

Brave Deeds, by David Abrams, has been described as a "powerful novel of war, brotherhood and America." I haven't read Abrams' books before and I'm really excited to start here.

The Burning Girl, by Claire Messud. I heard Messud speak at BEA and was captivated. Her latest  is "compact, compelling, and ferociously sad," "a story about childhood, friendship and community, and a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about childhood and friendship." It will be good for when I want a more serious book to read.

Then there's See What I have Done, by Sarah Schmidt, a "riveting debut" that takes on Lizzie Borden. Buckle up!