I’m reporting early this month because I’ve been reading up a storm! READING DOWN THE HOUSE is my attempt to read books I’ve bought and neglected at home. I started with 17 unread books and I’ve read 11 of them since last November:
This month’s books from home were a biography of Marc Bolan, and the novel When God Was a Rabbit.
I’ve read dozens of rock biographies and I couldn’t put my finger on what was different about this one. I realized it was written from a celebrity gossip point of view, rather than a music aficionado point of view. The author had access to many industry insiders who knew Marc Bolan, and was able to interview them personally. But they were mainly business-types, such as producers, promoters and agents. The book focused heavily on Mr. Bolan’s charisma, sense of style, friendships and sexuality. There was lots of dirt on his relationships with June and Gloria, his “rivalry” with Bowie, and exactly how he died. All the while, the author didn’t hesitate to discuss Mr. Bolan’s narcissism and substance abuse. Needless to say, it was an irresistible read! It was also a surprisingly good look behind the scenes at the music industry. Another positive was that the author described the era so that younger readers could understand how Marc Bolan fit in. I’m still waiting for a Bolan biography that focuses more on his musical impact, but this was a fun “fan” bio.
I bought this book because it was well-reviewed and had a lovely book design, despite being clearly labelled as the story of a sister and brother growing up. In other words, I knew it would be a mild tale and not plot-heavy. The writing style pulled me in because each chapter was divided into little sections that ended with a resonant phrase, like “He let it go and allowed possibility to once again enter his life.” The first half of the book was episodic, describing sharp little moments in childhood. It seemed that Elly and Joe were being set up for a life of misery, but at least they had each other. I started loving the book when I saw it was actually about resilience. They not only survived their early experiences, but mostly thrived, and even their parents were three-dimensional people who both supported their children and had lives of their own. No matter what happened, they were always there for each other, and they even let other people into their family and made a bigger circle.
The author included some magical events. I interpreted them as the child, Elly, wanting so much to believe that she saw magic all around her. Later in the book, there are some surreal coincidences. I read this as, “This is how we all wish our lives would happen,” with our loved ones returning to us, and never having to wonder about them. The last quarter of the book describes a very dramatic incident which overshadows the wistful tone of the rest of the book. By then we are fully immersed in the Wish Fulfillment aspect of the book. I found it overpowering, and too specific compared to the rest of the story. But I won’t dwell on it. I was left with the feeling that we can and will survive our pasts, and we can be there for others as they were for us. Very life-affirming!
In addition to to my own books, I read 5 more books this month from the library:
The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year – Sue Townsend
Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Feelings Betray Us – by Mary Ellen O’Toole
Jim Henson: The Biography – by Brian Jay Jones
The Good Luck of Right Now – by Matthew Quick
Gender Failure – by Rae Spoon and Ivan E. Coyote
There isn’t room to post the reviews here, but you can read them on Goodreads (no Goodreads account needed).
What have you been reading?