Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Sunday Reading (I Read Dead People)

No, I'm really not seeing ghosts or anything (I think that's just my new progressive-lens bifocals playing tricks on me). If you're interested in genealogy, you know that a lot of very useful information can be gleaned from obituaries. And since family history has been one of my hobbies for quite a while now, the obits are frequent reading matter for me. However, I find if I read them on a regular basis, it gets just a teeny bit depressing. So once a month or so, I catch up by scanning the obituary sections in several online newspapers. And today was obits day. Fortunately, I didn't find any friends or family listed.

But I did find out that a San Antonio TX legend, sportswriter Dan Cook, died July 3. He'd been a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News for over half a century, and was famous as the "originator" of the phrase "the opera ain't over till the fat lady sings." And although it wasn't really original with him (apparently, it was actually a variation on an old Southern saying), he did help popularize it. So I guess we do have ol' Dan to thank or blame for that.

Just one more dead people note, and then I promise I'll stop all this morbidity (morbid-ness?). One of the books I read this week was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows [see my review]. It was an Early Reviewer book from LibraryThing, and I almost didn't request it because it had such a strange title. But I ended up really loving the book and was all set to start hoping for a sequel – the characters were just so fascinating. But after a little checking around on the internet, I discovered that the book's author, Mary Ann Shaffer, died last February. Her niece, Annie Barrows, is listed as co-author of the book, but I don't know how much she had to do with the actual writing. So I guess we probably won't be seeing any more of the quirky and endearing Guernsey Islanders in the future. Very sad.

Also finished this week, The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman. Haven't done a review of it yet, but I hope to get one up in a day or two. For now, I'll just say I liked the book a lot more than I expected to. The story jumps back and forth between modern day England and sixteenth-century Constantinople, and tells the tale of a young English woman who is shipwrecked and ends up as a slave in the Sultan's harem. Yes, I agree – the first words that popped into my head when I read the synopsis were "Harlequin Romance." But it really was much better than that. And no, the Sultan didn't look anything like Fabio.

Today, in addition to the obits, I've been reading So Long at the Fair, by Christina Schwarz. It was another free ARC – this one from Doubleday – but I believe the regular edition already went on sale earlier this month. The back of the book says it "explores the lure of new attraction and the pull of long-established love and the lengths people will go to in satisfying their deepest desires." Hmmmm. Well, I've only read about 50 pages, but so far it seems like a pretty standard marriage-on-the-rocks tale, and it's not really grabbing me. But I'll give it another 50 pages or so before making up my mind about abandoning it for the "lure of a new attraction."

Oh, yeah – I guess I should also confess I've been wasting way too much time today, playing with Unconscious Mutterings. It's a new meme I found a few weeks ago – well, it's new to me but obviously it's been around a while because they're on week number 286! You can see my attempts at answers on my other blog, or try it yourself by checking out LunaNina's website. But it's habit forming, so be careful.


  1. I'll be looking for your review of The Aviary Gate - I felt "meh" about it, so I'm very interested to see how other people felt. Also looking forward to your reaction to So Long at the Fair - I've got it waiting and I should probably read it soon since it's already been released!

    Your post reminds me of a book I have, This Thing of Darkness by Harry Thompson. It was on the Booker long list the year it came out. I haven't read it yet, but many have discussed how good it is. The author passed away soon after writing it so we'll never get any more from him either. Always sad, when that happens.

  2. I've always loved reading obits. In the south where I live now (grew up in NY), the obits can be like stories, telling all kinds of interesting details about people. I love it. I didn't realize how weird it was until once I had my creative writing class (high school) kids write their obit for an assignment. A couple of parents were very unhappy with me. I realized then that maybe this was not quite a normal thing!

  3. The Unconscious Mutterings is very funny to do -- instead of writing down whatever comes into my mind when I read the word, I keep trying to define it! That just not right!

  4. Thanks for your comment on my memoirs post. I loved The Moveable Feast, too! I haven't read it in years, though.

  5. I read the Dan Good obit too. I had no idea that he popularized that saying until I read the obit and I'm a native Texan. So, you can learn from the obits:-)

  6. I read Nuala O' Faolain's sequel memoir "Almost There" after seeing her obit in the Sunday NY Times: "Often seen as a feminine (and feminist) counterpart to Frank McCourt’s 'Angela’s Ashes,' Ms. O’Faolain’s first memoir, 'Are You Somebody?,' created a sensation on its publication in Ireland in 1996. Her unblinking, unsentimental description of Irish life in the 1940s and ’50s, and her loveless, impoverished home, where she grew up the second of nine children, struck a chord with Irish readers and went on to sell well in Britain and the United States...." She may not be your cup of tea though.


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