What I Did on My Spring Vacation

Sorry for the silence folks. I returned quite late on Sunday night from San Francisco and this week is craziness at work. Did I mention that I got a promotion? I’m now the Head Buyer for the store.

I read a lot of books while I was away. I’m kicking myself for forgetting to bring Robert Bolano’s The Savage Detective. I started with a mystery called The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin. Set in the Ottoman Empire as the empire faces sweeping change, a series of murders threatens the Sultan’s power. He asks Investigator Yashim to investigate. Yashim has the ability to blend in anywhere. He also happens to be a eunuch. I found this book very entertaining on the plane, full of lyrical descriptions of Istanbul and a good plot.

I was smart enough to pack Katherine Weber’s Triangle about the infamous shirtwaist factory fire in 1911 for this trip. One of the last survivors of the fire, Esther Gottesfeld, has told the story of that day many times, but some of the details seem mysterious. Now as she is dying at the age of 106, her granddaughter begins to seek the real story. The point of view goes back and forth and we hear Esther’s story told over and over. Frankly, this book is brilliant, an exploration of story telling and the impact that historical events can have on everyone. (Also, it’s an LBC pick for the next round so get ready for some more commentary.)
Once I finished Triangle I had to go buy a book. Luckily I was in a town that still celebrates the book. I hoofed it over to City Lights and spent a long time browsing that wonderful store. I settled on Dana Spiotta’s Eat the Document because I remember Ed liking it and I figured I was in Ed’s town (well, not anymore, but still) and I should read something related. Plus parts of the story are set in the 70’s and the plot relates the story of two radicals protesting the war. When one of their revolutionary acts results in a death, the two must separate and go underground. Flash forward to 1998, where we follow teenager Jason coping with his non-existent life. There are several stories and it’s clear from the beginning which of the characters in the 90’s are the radicals. I didn’t enjoy the book at first, because I felt that this was all too obvious, but Spiotta really does an excellent job of drawing out the character development so I found myself engrossed after a while.

After that I went back to the store and grabbed Home Land by Sam Lipsyte. Mark really liked this one and I thought it was pretty funny too, though I read it too fast and had to go get another book. I picked up T.C. Boyle’s The Inner Circle at The Booksmith on Haight Street, another San Francisco landmark. Boyle writes about Kinsey and his studies on human sexuality in this one. It’s a fascinating portrait of both Prok and the men who worked for him. I felt dirty reading it in public, but I found completely riveting.

Now I’m finally going to start the Bolano. And after that we’ll see.

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