Archive for January, 2014

Dogtown, by Elyssa East

January 19, 2014

[Lesley]  I have seen this book going in and out at the library for years and every time I think – “that looks interesting… I should read that.” Well, I finally checked it out and I was right! This is an intriguing book looking at one small area of Cape Ann from historic, artistic, spiritual, true crime, and anthropologic perspectives. The entire book is framed by the author’s own interest in this area, sparked by her admiration for and connection to the paintings of Hartley Marsden that center on the rock formations in Cape Ann’s dogtown. As she searches for an epiphany in her own life she discovers the fascinating history of Dogtown and other “towns” like it as well as more recent events (murder, conservation efforts, and invasive species – plants and people) that become more “proof” of what people already feel and think about the transcendent and dark qualities of this mostly unclaimed piece of earth. A great read – I’m sorry I waited so long to discover it!

Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett

January 2, 2014

[Lesley] I’m definitely a fan of Ann Patchett. I think I read The Magician’s Assistant first and loved that. Then Bel Canto, which I liked but not as much as the hype might have predicted. Truth & Beauty, however, took my head off (even though it is prose and not poetry). I find this kind of a relationship with a writer’s work to be very comfortable — I don’t love everything she writes but I always admire her writing and when a particular story speaks to me, I am 100% involved.
This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of essays published in a variety of places and on a narrow range of subjects that all amount to her particular viewpoint on her own life, relationships (with other humans and dogs), writing, reading, bookstores, family, and home. I really liked this book and find myself also feeling that I like Ann Patchett as a person even though we have never met. Her nonfiction writing is well-crafted and at the same time seems effortless — certainly it is effortless to read. Some of her thoughts on writing are the best I’ve ever read (and, yes, she received many of the ideas from her own mentors, but she relays them in her context) and it would be hard to find a more frank look at divorce in all of its particular and universal characteristics.
There is a particular type of semi-memoir essay collection (this one, Small Wonder by Barbara Kingsolver, several by Annie Dillard) that is just a pleasure to read and makes you feel like you have gotten to know someone very worthwhile who has given you some new things to think about. Highly recommended and feels like a great way to start a new year.

Audio available on Hoopla and Libby/Overdrive

This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage