WHEN WALKING FAILS: MOBILITY PROBLEMS OF ADULTS WITH CHRONIC CONDITIONS (2003)
The author, a medical doctor who happens to have multiple sclerosis, has written a thoroughgoing overview of the typical mobility problems faced by adults with chronic conditions such as MS. She focuses on some of the people she interviewed, in particular, usually letting them speak for themselves.
The book includes helpful appendices.
29 January 2008
UNTIL I FIND YOU (2005)
Either I shouldn't read two long novels by Irving so close together in time, or Irving has gone too far with this one. It is smarmy and boring and too long, in my opinion, though it has funny moments.
4 April 2009
A WIDOW FOR ONE YEAR (1998)
A long novel that may be trying to cover too much territory for its own good...
Marian and Ted Cole have lost their two sons in a car crash some years before the start of the novel. It will be a long time before the reader finds out the details of the accident. In the meantime we have Marian being almost obsessive about the many photos of the boys that she has hung throughout the house--so obsessive that even their third child (conceived and born after the accident), Ruth, at the age of 4, is keenly aware of every detail in them.
Ted, it seems, is very unlikable. He's an expert squash player who has built his own squash court at home in such a way that he is guaranteed to win. He writes stories for children for a living and is highly successful, even though the snippets of the stories given to the reader make them sound creepy and disturbing to a child. Ted is creepy and disturbing. On the pretext of taking photos of little girls in the neighborhood, he routinely moves to photographing their mothers--lonely suburban housewives whom he easily seduces and takes demeaning pornographic photos of them.
His wife Marian can perhaps be forgiven for having a torrid affair with Eddie, who at 16 has been hired by Ted as a "writer's assistant." A problem here is that Eddie falls perpetually in love with Marian--and can't forget her for the next 37 years.
Marian somewhat inexplicably walks out on Ted and her four-year-old daughter and disappears for several decades, surfacing eventually as a writer with a nom de plume. Meanwhile, Eddie has also become a writer--and so has Ruth Cole.
The horror of this situation and of some of its tragic consequences is more or less forgotten about in the latter half of the novel, where we move forward into the daughter Ruth's adult life.
The plot is much more involved than the partial outline given here. Unfortunately the novel has too many signs of an author with his eye on big sales and movie rights. Irving doesn't spare us the smarmy details we've come to expect in contemporary novels and films: we get more than enough pubic hair, masturbation, urination, explicit descriptions of sex---anything the reader might require to pique prurient interests.
Free speech allows writers to say whatever they want, and that is great. But some readers might just get a little tired of so much undressed explicitness thrown at us repeatedly. Some of us might feel like saying, "Enough already! We've been there and done that."
It would have gone over better in this book if Irving hadn't resorted to cheap cliffhanger statements designed to make the reader aware that what was coming next was Important--and to all-too-frequent substitutes for characters' names, like saying "the four-year-old" for "Ruth," and "the sixteen-year-old" for "Eddie." Is this being done because he feels we're likely to forget their ages, or what?
I find it unbelievable that Marian, who is one of the most sympathetic characters in the book, would have left her four-year-old daughter in the hands of her peculiar father Ted. We are expected to believe that Marian loves Ruth--and that she walks out on her because she is afraid of losing this child too. We never find out just what she has been doing in the 37 years of her absence, either, except that she has been evolving into a writer of novels.
The story has its absorbing moments and its funny parts too, but in general it is probably not worth the time it takes to get through it.
MY MOVIE BUSINESS: A MEMOIR (1999)
I came to this book after having read a number of John Irving's novels and having seen one or two movie versions of them. I believe that the subtitle A Memoir misled me into supposing I would learn about Irving's life. Instead, the book is very short and contains only a few snippets of information of the author's life. Primarily it is an account of the problems in making a movie of The Cider House Rules, not one of the Irving novels I had read. There is also a less extended account of the filming of A Son of the Circus, which I had read.
My Movie Business would interest movie buffs, probably, but I found it disappointing.
Also, I had an unpleasant sensation that Irving was doing too much name-dropping in this book. He has become acquainted with some big-name movie stars, but somehow this fact failed to interest me. The book puts Irving's novels under a bit of a cloud, in my opinion. I started to wonder if he wrote them with too much of an eye on their movie-making potential....
A SON OF THE CIRCUS (1994)
Dr. Daruwalla, a Canadian orthopedist, has to reacquaint himself with a double murder that occurred twenty years before, in his native Bombay.
THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (1989)
It's probably not a good idea to see the film adaptation of a novel before reading the book. I had seen the excellent movie that was made from this novel, and when reading the book I kept seeing and hearing the characters as they'd been shown on the screen.
The book has many nuances that couldn't have been conveyed in a movie, particularly when it comes to Mr. Stevens, the narrator, a butler in what he regards as a distinguished house in England around the time of World War 2.
From the outset Stevens seems overly punctilious and perfectionistic, but the extent to which he carries his rigidity becomes clear only as the story unfolds. He unwittingly reveals himself to have shut down most human emotion, though at times he creeps around the edges of it, as when he imagines that Miss Kenton, the housekeeper, is crying behind her door.
The relationship with Miss Kenton is essentially a thing of the past at the time the story commences, which is many years later, with Stevens on a motor trip that will take him--incidentally--on a visit to the former housekeeper who has now been married many years and has a grown daughter. But we get glimpses of past interactions between Stevens and Miss Kenton, and these show a relationship that could have blossomed but never did, quite probably due to Stevens's rigidity and general obtuseness.
This is a sad story about a missed chance. Stevens's own loyalty to his master, Lord Darlington, which is steadfast in spite of Lord Darlington's unmistakable Nazi connections, shows us a man for whom the occupation--he would call it a profession--of being a butler is paramount, taking precedence over everything else.
Small wonder then that he can't see his way clear to make overtures to Miss Kenton even though she gives him several opportunities.
The author has done a masterful job of capturing the way in which the English can use extreme good manners to freeze a person out, to cut a person down to size, and for any number of other hostile purposes. The dialogue seems flawless, and as we hear more and more from Stevens, we become more aware of how impossible his situation is. Butlers have probably died out as a breed nowadays, and it may be just as well for all concerned....
Molly Ivins has long been one of my favorite commentators on the US political scene. She is a Texan, deep in the heart of the land of George W. Bush, and she has been keeping up with the Texas political scene for quite a while.
It isn't a pretty scene, and Texas has "Dubya" to thank for some of the worst ugliness. "Dubya" loves the death penalty, for example. He also has an astonishingly bad environmental record.
She exposes "Dubya" as President for what he is: a rich boy who doesn't know much about anything, but who has dozens of well-off and well-placed cronies going to bat for him as needed.
She paints an appalling picture--and this was in 2000, BEFORE this man became President, BEFORE he was reading My Pet Goat to a group of schoolkids during the al Qaeda attacks on 9/11, BEFORE the Iraq war he so deceitfully and disastrously started, and BEFORE his shameless treatment of the Katrina disaster.
Maybe we should have paid closer attention to Molly Ivins.
9 June 2006
--with Lou Dubose:
BUSHWHACKED: LIFE IN GEORGE W. BUSH'S AMERICA (2003)
Written during Dubya's Presidency, this book is a collection of Molly Ivins's articles providing the readers with valuable background about his activities on the Texas political scene. Ivins has clearly followed the second Bush's career for a long time--and she found nothing particularly commendable about him and his record.
This country is still reeling from the damage done by Dubya and his cronies. Molly Ivins was one of the few voices of reason heard in the land.
23 November 2009
WHO LET THE DOGS IN? INCREDIBLE POLITICAL ANIMALS I HAVE KNOWN (2004)
We couldn't spare Molly Ivins. There is nobody on the scene who could even attempt to replace her. But unfortunately she has left us.
At least we can still enjoy her essays, such as those in Who Let the Dogs In?
The book is a compendium of essays written both before and after "Dubya" attained the Presidency. Molly Ivins was warning us about him long ago.
She has special fun with Tom DeLay, who--she likes to remind her readers--is a bug exterminator by profession. Her book contains moving tributes to Barbara Jordan and several other notable persons who have died in recent years.
--with Lou Dubose:
BILL OF WRONGS: THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH'S ASSAULT ON AMERICA'S FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS (2007)
This posthumously published book gives details on several deplorable recent instances of human rights violations by the US government.
It includes extensive references.
October 4, 2011