Friday, January 12, 2007

Currently Reading

Resolving to write better lead sentences wasn't such a good idea. Since I was unwilling to put anything down that didn't immediately appear eye-catching and smart, I stopped myself from putting anything down at all. And I had a lot of new books to read, and my kids were home from school for the winter holidays, and there are just lots of reasons to do something other than blog, especially when you can't think of a good first sentence.

So, forging past my writer's block with an easy topic: what I've been reading. Here's their lead sentences and a note about why I'm reading each and what I think of it:

Serene was word you could put to Brooklyn, New York.

- from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. What an incredible book. I'd heard of it for years (it was a bestseller after it was published in 1943, and a popular movie, which I've never seen either), but I was shocked by how modern and enjoyable this was. Thanks again to my book club for pushing me to read about Francie Nolan and her complicated family and what Brooklyn was like in the early 1900's.

And I loved the fact that Francie goes to Ann Arbor at the end of the book. Did you locals know that Betty Smith and her husband lived in Ann Arbor after she got married? I found her on the 1920 census (where both she & her husband apparently lied about their ages), living in another family's house in the heart of the Burns Park neighborhood, on Forest Ave. a couple blocks from Packard. She was never was an official student at U of M, but audited or unofficially took just about every writing class available in between having two daughters and writing plays.

You're stuck in traffic again.

- from Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck. My book club's selection for next month, at my urging. I hope they don't all hate it.

There it is.

- from Tolstoy Lied: A Love Story, by Rachel Kadish. "There it is" refers to Tolstoy's famous first line: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." I haven't read further, but it sounds good and a blogger whose taste in books I like recommended this.

'A'a: While highly fluid pahoehoe lava can flow like a river, with no more than a slight metallic hiss, rubblelike 'a'a lava moves with a sound like crockery breaking.

- from Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, edited by Barry Lopez. This is a gorgeous, entertaining and enlightening book, the best kind to browse on a cold winter's night with a cup of coffee and some chocolate cherry bread (from Zingerman's Bakehouse, for you locals). The literary quotes are delightful, the authors chosen are all worth reading in their own right, and the words are fun. Just this morning I've read about anse (aha, so that's where L'Anse, Michigan comes from - it's French for 'bay'), armored mud balls, desire paths, Detroit rip rap, and pimple mounds.

I'm also reading (and have recently finished) some trashy paperbacks, but I'm not going to list all of those first sentences, let alone the authors or titles.


Julie said...

Burns Park! That's where I grew up! Just a couple of blocks down from S. Forest! And I had no idea! I've been meaning to reread A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for ages. This settles it. :)

And oh, come on, won't you please list the trashy paperbacks?

Anjali said...

Ok, you tempt me with A Tree Grows...It's a future book club read for me as well. Now I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Sandy D. said...

Julie, you will mock my paperback choices, but since I know that you willingly watched Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, I'll list the authors: Marjorie M. Liu, Patricia Briggs, and Emma Holly.

Sandy D. said...

And about Betty Smith in the census: both she & George (her dh) say they are 22, but the biographers all say that she would have been 24 in 1920, though George was 22 (two years younger). So I guess only Betty lied about her age (or maybe George did, depending on who talked to the census taker).

Genevieve said...

If you liked Tree so much, you should read Joy in the Morning. It tells the story of Annie Brown, who moves to an unnamed midwestern college town with her husband, who's a law student, and wants to take classes and write although she hasn't finished high school. It's my favorite of Betty Smith's books.