Archive for September, 2008

TBR Challenge: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998)

Posted in Fiction, Gina, TBR Challenge on September 17, 2008 by Gina

The Hours has been holding up other books on my bookshelf rather well since 2002 when the movie came to theaters.  I had rushed out to buy a copy because I just had to read it.  I bought it and placed it on the shelf to get lost in the shuffle of books for four years.  I re-found it this month, while looking for another book, and decided that it would really be a good read for this month’s TBR Day. 

In college, I read my first and only Virginia Woolf book, A Room of One’s Own. I loved it.  I thought it was brilliant.  I felt a strong connection down deep inside me.  However, now upon recollection I can only remember my strong feelings of it and not really the reasoning behind those feelings.  Mr. Cunninham’s writing of Virginia has rekindled my excitement for her.  I am excited to reread A Room of One’s Own as well as read her other works including Mrs. Dalloway, which is the book she is working on when this novel is set.     

Now, for Mr. Cunningham’s novel.  As per the back of book,

Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, The Hours is the story of three women:  Clarissa Vaughn, who one New York morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950’s Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb, and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway.  By the end of the novel, the stories have intertwined, and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace, demonstrating Michael Cunningham’s deep empathy for his characters as well as the extraordinary resonance of his prose.

I enjoyed reading this book very much.  I felt the bouncing back from one woman to another added drama and kept the story moving along.  I loved how Cunningham followed them and used everyday moments to show us the character of these women.  I enjoyed his writing style.  He took his time reveling layer upon layer of these women and the characters that came and went from their lives.

Though the women lived in three different times and were living three vastly different lives, they were similar in the heart of the matter.  They all pretended and played roles for the world and for the people around them.  Laura the role of a dutifully wife and mother.  Clarissa the role of a ‘wife’ and intimate friend.  Virginia, it seemed, had to pretend to be and do most everything in her life. They pretended to be what the world/their loved ones wanted or needed them to be.  They judged themselves unworthdy because they could not attain the perfection they desired.  Perfection seemed to be a disease of them all.   This perfectionism can be seen most clearly in Laura’s cake, Clarissa’s flowers, and Virginia’s interactions with Nelly, the servant.   This perfectionism still effects women today.  Is my house clean enough?  Are my children well behaved enough?  These are just two of the questions women ask themselves each day.  How do I measure up to others?   Why is it we always measure ourselves against the best, most perfect ideal which often times does not exist?  (end tangent)

This book was a great read.  It isn’t an overly difficult or long (226pgs) read.  It was well worth the time it took to read, which is not always the case.

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Death’s Acre by William Bass and Jon Jefferson

Posted in Lisa, Non-Fiction with tags , on September 9, 2008 by Lisa

Cross posted at Books. Lists. Life.

Death’s Acre by William Bass and Jon Jefferson

Did you ever read Patricia Cornwell’s The Body Farm? Watch Forensic Files? Bones? Death’s Acre is the non-fiction version of that. Subtitled “Inside the Legendary Forensic Lab the Body Farm Where the Dead Do Tell Tales ,” this book is about the Body Farm (as you may have guessed by now.) The Body Farm is in Knoxville, TN and is a research facility dedicated to death. The brainchild of Dr. Bass, anthropologists there study every conceivable aspect of death to determine how and when a person died.

The book is a series of chapters about various case studies beginning in 1981 with the opening of the Farm. It tells in great detail about what a person can learn from a dead body and what can and can’t be hidden. For example, it’s hard to burn a body, if a body rests on a coin, the coin will be imprinted on the corpse, maggots appear almost immediately, and the soil under a body will show traces of the body’s decomposition. Both fascinating and a little bit gross, the book held my interest and I flew through it. My only complaint is that at times it was painfully obvious that Dr. Bass was in charge of the writing as it would veer into weirdly self-congratulatory talk. I was unable to read their first fiction novel for the same reason- the writing style- so if the writing bugs you this might not be for you. Otherwise, if you’re at all interesting in the forensic sciences, you should pick it up. This book would be a nice companion to Stiff by Mary Roach as well.