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March: Page Plummet, Novel Nosedive

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It’s just what I expected, but I’m still annoyed that I only read six books this month. Work is quite demanding, so I’m starting to wonder about making it to 100 this year. Since it’s now National Poetry Month, I’ll go ahead and ask: What happens to a triple-digit dream deferred?

1. The Cariboo Horses – Al Purdy.
(I spilled the banks of my overwhelming love for Alfred Wellington Purdy earlier this month. )
2. True Grit – Charles Portis.
I reread this again for Bookleaves Book Group. We ate at Tony Roma’s and discussed the book, then we went to see the new movie version (retitled “The Brave” for its release in South Korea) at Cine Cube. Then I found a copy of the movie a few days ago. I’m up to four viewings. My friend Leigh is going back and forth, trying to decide who is the better Rooster Cogburn: John Wayne or Jeff Bridges? I’m going to have to go with Bridges. When I watch the 1969 True Grit, I’m seeing nothing but John Wayne except the other characters in the movie are calling him Rooster. In the 2010 version, there is no Jeff Bridges, just an old reprobate named Rooster Cogburn. Glen Campbell vs. Matt Damon as LaBoeuf is a no-brainer; I’m more and more charmed by Damon’s nicely nuanced performance with each progressive viewing. Kim Darby vs. Hailee Steinfeld: Gotta go with Hailee. Poor kid, she got robbed at the Oscars. Although I prefer the remake, something young and primal within me cries out for the original movie as well. Sometimes I require both movies on the same day. I’ve hardly spoken of the book, but Oh. My. God. Even better than either movie. If you haven’t read True Grit yet, stop wasting time on this blog and go find it.
3. Another Bullshit Night In Suck City – Nick Flynn.
Probably because of its provocative title, I was expecting to be blown away by this memoir of a ne’er-do-well father meeting his estranged son in a homeless shelter in Boston, where the latter is working. It’s an incredible story without an ounce of the sentimentality I was dreading. I was left wondering what has become of Flynn’s father since the book was published in 2004, but I wasn’t really drawn in the way I am with some memoirs — like The Glass Castle, for example. Flynn has a way of keeping readers at a distance, which really makes sense, considering his life, so perhaps I’m being too finicky. A movie is being made starring Robert De Niro and Paul Dano. I have plans to see how the Flynns’ story is translated to the screen.
4. Lucky: Maris, Mantle and My Best Summer Ever – Wes Tooke.
First things first: I hate that title. It smells like it was slapped together by a committee. A committee who hadn’t read the book. This is a juvenile novel (told in third person, so why is that first person pronoun in the title?) about a 12-year-old boy named Louis May who is lousy at baseball, but knows (and knows and knows) baseball statistics. Because of a lucky catch at a Yankees game in the summer of 1961 and his statistical inclinations, he gets a chance to be a batboy for the Yankees. All is not so rosy at home, though. Mom ran off to be a beatnik in Greenwich Village (in one scene, she takes him to The Gaslight where one of the performers is a very young Robert Zimmerman) and Louis is having trouble getting adjusted to life with his new stepmother and stepbrother. Louis’ story and his coming-of-age feels a little workmanlike but it’s all worth it for the great scenes with Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle teaching Louis (nicknamed “Lucky” by Maris) about life and baseball. Tooke really catches fire as Louis follows the exciting race to Babe Ruth’s record. A quick read and a wonderful way to prepare for Opening Day this year.
 
5. 84, Charing Cross Road – Helene Hanff.
 We don’t have the same taste in books, Helene Hanff and I, but I could totally see myself making friends with a bookstore staff in post-war London and shipping them tasty treats at Christmastime. This memoir is related through twenty years of correspondence with Marks & Co. Booksellers. Reading this from a vantage point of more than 60 years onward, the prices made me smile. Hanff has a taste for the old and rare, and she’s sends them a five dollar bill and ends up with two bucks credited to her account. The best part is her feisty letters to the company and no matter how obnoxious she gets, she always gets a gentlemanly response from the patient manager, Frank Doel. I’m more than ready to treat myself to another viewing of the movie version starring Anne Bancroft as Hanff and Anthony Hopkins as Doel. 
 
6. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov.
 I read this one for my Cracked Spinz book group. What a strange book. Because of the events in the novel, I am uncomfortable about admitting that I enjoyed it. There’s that numbingly clinical introduction. Then there’s Humbert Humbert, an unreliable narrator with a dark and twisted sense of humor that you can’t help enjoying, but then there’s his nasty, creepy predilection for “nymphets” and then there’s Russian-born author Nabokov playing around in French and English and making literary allusions, puns and anagrams with the same gleeful abandon of a kid at his mud pies and finally, there’s that rich, sumptuous, decadently beautiful prose. My mixed feelings of unease and admiration in equal parts reminds of my reaction to In Cold Blood — Capote’s precise, almost delicate narration and the horrific subject matter. Regarding Lolita, the air in my very own Bybeeary is already crackling, and book group is still ten days away. We are going to have our greatest discussion ever; there’s no other possibility.
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