[Note: To hear the incomparable vocal stylings of Herb (and Ms. Wynter Spears) come to Davenports Piano Bar tonight for their 8pm show - "Wynter and Herb: Friends for all Seasons."]
(For the week of September 23, 2010: Herb L., Chicago, IL)
Herb L., What are you reading?
I am moments away from finishing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It’s the story of a writer in post-WWII Britain and her correspondence with the charming folks of Guernsey, occupied by Germany during the war. My friend insisted I read this, as she was unable to put it down on her vacation. I’ve enjoyed it- but haven’t been bowled over. Perhaps the book was over-hyped and set my expectations too high. It took me a while to get into it- Part One of the book found me constantly wishing I had a chart explaining characters and how they were related. It was a bit like I was watching a ping-pong match. Part Two has seemed to flow better for me, but also seems frantic, as if it is spiraling towards its inevitable conclusion. I’d be interested to know how much Ms. Shaffer’s untimely passing effected this. Barrows is the niece of Shaffer, who finished up the book after her death- hence the two authors listed.
But, I found it interesting that I enjoyed this read more when I was able to consume it in large swaths. I think the dilemma for many urban readers is that we tend to read in small chunks- our morning bus ride, our lunch time break, and, for me, church sermons. :) I wish I had a life where I could spend more evenings and Sunday afternoons reading. And that’s the best thing I took from the book- that I need to take more uninterrupted time to do some quality reading.
What was the last thing you read?
I previously read The Night Listener by Armistead Maupin. I actually read it because Maupin had a quote on a Starbucks cup a few years ago that put Fox News watchers’ panties in a bunch- It said “My only regret about being gay is that I repressed it for so long. I surrendered my youth to the people I feared when I could have been out there loving someone. Don’t make that mistake yourself. Life’s too damn short.”
I digress. So, the story itself seemed like it would be interesting. And Maupin has a style of writing somewhere between David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs for me. Not as clever as Sedaris, and not as cynical and dark as Burroughs. It’s the story of a gentleman who writes stories for late-night radio. He is sent a script for a book from a teenage boy that throws his world upside down. It is based on a true story- but don’t research that unless you want major plot points spoiled. Maupin has a talent for not foreshadowing at every turn. I hate when an author leads you by the nose in one direction or another in books about a mystery, whether that aim is to throw you off the trail, or to offer you a big wink and a nod about what’s going on (I’m looking at you, Dan Brown). Maupin allows your mind to wander about the possibilities. I appreciated that, but, in the end, the book fell flat. And don’t get me started about the ending…