Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Salon Update: Feb. 17, 2013

Sunday Salon: Jan. 17, 2013 Update

Finished John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars on audio. Readers probably know that this wonderful YA book tells the love story of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters, who  meet at a support group for teens who have cancer.
As in Muriel Barbery’s  “The Elegance of the Hedgehog,” the exchange of culture – in this case a book called  “The Imperial Affliction” has a magnetic effect on the relationship. Green captures that stage of falling in love that’s about sharing one’s obsessions for favorite things. An Imperial Affliction, the fiction within this fiction, is also about a young person dying of cancer; it ends ambiguously mid action. Hazel Grace wants desperately to know what happens to the other characters after the death. So desperately that her quest becomes the action that drives the plot.
One of the book’s motifs is the art of fiction, how it mirrors reality, is not reality, but can be so real in the mind’s eye. 
As I listened I couldn’t stop thinking about an essay I read last fall in the New Yorker.  I went online and read “The Box and the Keyhole” by Brad Leithauser again.
In it Leithauser has a discussion with his daughter who is so thoroughly taken by a story they listen to that she wants to know what her dad thinks a character is “really like.” 
In the essay, Leithauser reflects on how we read differently as we age and grow sophisticated and critical. When we read as children we read with belief:
Had I been still more articulate, I might have said that there’s a special readerly pleasure in approaching a book as you would a box. In its self-containment lies its ferocious magic; you can see everything it holds, and yet its meagre, often hackneyed contents have a way of engineering fresh, refined, resourceful patterns. And Emily might have replied that she comes to a book as to a keyhole: you observe some of the characters’ movements, you hear a little of their dialogue, but then they step outside your limited purview. They have a reality that outreaches the borders of the page.

Other reading:  I reviewed Gene Kerrigan’s The Rage, which is likely soon to be all the rage. (You can read review below). According to its publisher, Europa Editions, it’s climbing the best-seller lists. Europa is launching Europa Noir and has a newish Facebook page for those who follow or want to  “like” it.  Search for Europa Noir on Facebook.
I am just about finished with The Kerrigan’s The Midnight Choir, which I will likely review some time next week. That will complete the three Kerrigan crime novels currently available from Europa Editions.
 Finally, I took a long car trip and began listening on audio books to Jon Meacham’s Thomas Jefferson The Art of Power.

Sunday Salon is a Facebook page, where book bloggers share their thoughts.


  1. I haven't yet listened to any audiobooks...primarily because my long car trips and commuting are a thing of the past...for now.

    I am hesitating about The Fault in Our Stars because I probably need to be in the right frame of mind for the storyline.

    I liked the thoughts you shared from The Box and the Keyhole.


    1. Laurel,
      It's a very funny book. I am glad that I listened to this one. It brings out the smart adolescent voices so well. I'm not alone in thinking it's wonderful. Reception is star-studded.

  2. Oh my. This really adds to my thoughts about reading and antireading. I think I must be off to read the full essay.

    Thank you for sharing your perceptions. Very wise.

  3. I love it when pieces of literature connect with things you've read previously -- that you'd almost forgotten you read.

  4. An Irish Chandler is how Amazon describes Kerrigan. If he's anywhere as good as Chandler, he will certainly be one to watch.....

    Booker Talk

  5. My, you have finished a lot this week. I would like to read the John Green book which everyone seems to rave about. Perhaps it might help me as I'm going to a funeral of a relative tomorrow, which has been tough especially on my husband. Or would the book be too close right now? hmm

  6. Can't advise you. Mourning is so individual, so personal. Can only tell you about the book. Very funny. Not that sad. It's about so much more than two teens with cancer. It's got such a great adventure piece to it. It gives fullness to very short lives. May be a good thing to read at this time.
    I chose not to go see L'Amour this week, because I am dealing with aging issues -- Dad is 95; mom 90, and they are well cared for, but...... don't want to see it right now.
    I go back to a part-time seasonal job soon, so will be slowing reading down.