Paper gold

No links in this posting. To those who are mentioned, apologies. But sometimes links just disrupt.

I’ve not been reading books lately, I’ve been devouring them. I’m making a trip to the library every other day and they’re starting to know me by name. It’s so nice to have access to such a terrific library system.

I’m in a strong mood to spend the next 3 or 4 days curled up with a book. You know the type of mood I’m talking about. I hope we get some nice thunderstorms, with lots of rain and wind. From my bedroom on the second floor I can watch the storms roll in, hear the rain on the roof, see the lightening. The only thing left to complete the picture is my books.

Thanks to Ben, Karl, Denise, and Leesa for book suggestions (and Dorothea’s admittance to being “the woman with the ocular equivalent of a tin ear”, which I thought was a hoot). I’m now going to add to my reading list “VOX”, “Leaves of Grass”, “Geek Love”, “Good in Bed”, and I downloaded a PDF version of “Baby Head”. I have a feeling when I show up at the library with this list of books tomorrow, I might raise an eyebrow or two. It is an eclectic assortment.

Two of the books I’m reading/finishing are Whitney Otto’s “A Collection of Beauties at the Height of their Popularity” and Agee and Evan’s “Let Us now Praise Famous men”. Both books are very interesting, though I prefer the Agee and Evan’s book. By far.

Otto’s book focuses almost entirely on character in its portrayal of several women in the hedonistic age of the 80’s in San Francisco. The common thread tying the women together, and quite loosely, is that each character goes to the same ‘tea’ room, and is captured in a modern day “pillow book”, or diary, kept by one of the women. However, Otto skips from person to person as casually as one would brush up against a person in a bar, first focusing on Coco, then on Jelly, and so on. You’re never quite on any one person long enough to like them or dislike them.

Of one of the characters, Elodie, Otto wrote:

It seemed safe to love something so abstract because her life did not seem to offer her a way to have anything, and so she spent her life not learning to let go but training herself not to want.

In the book the endless parties, relationships, and drugs swirl around in a kaleidoscope of pieces and fragments, highlighted against the emptiness of the women’s lives. This book is not an easy read, but is skillful in its characterization.

If “A Collection of Beauties” is about character, “Let Us now Praise Famous Men”, is pure imagery, one of the most visually compelling books I’ve read in some time.

In the chapter titled “Near a Church”, Agee talks about he and Evans finding a perfect church. As they look for an entrance into the church, a young black couple walks past. Agree writes:

They were young, soberly boyant of body, and strong, the man not quite thin, the girl not quite plump, and I remember their mild and sober faces, hers softly wide and sensitive to love and to pleasure; and his resourceful and intelligent without intellect and without guile, and their extreme dignity, which was effortless, unvalued, and undefended in them as the assumption of superiority which suffuses a rich and social adolescent boy; and I was taking pleasure also in the competence and rhythm of their walking in the sun, which was incapable of being less than a muted dancing, and in the beauty of the sunlight of their clothes, which were strange upon them in the middle of the week.

This section doesn’t even capture the richness of the rest of the chapter, but there was no way I could include anything else without including the entire chapter, each sentence so dependent on the one before and the one following.

Reading “Let us Now Praise Famous Men”, I can see why Jonathon and Jeff Ward decided to turn to writing rather than photography–there are certain things a camera just cannot capture.

I can recommend both books, Agee and Evan’s strongly, and Otto’s carefully.

Now, on to more books. And since discussion recently is about getting paid to weblog, you can ‘pay’ me by adding more book recommendations to the comments. With these and a library card, I’m a rich woman.

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