"}
Words

Vacation Bookshelf

Passages from paradise

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I recently spent 10 days in paradise. Among many pleasurable experiences—which included a steady supply of sunshine and tropical cocktails, spotting breaching whales from an oceanside veranda and watching molten lava flow directly into the Pacific—the ability to spend quality time reading was always near the top of my to-do list.

While I’ve spent previous vacation days consuming books designed to entertain, not enlighten, this time around I read a variety of tomes that aren’t likely to pop up on any “best beach reads” lists. Despite their (mostly) serious subject matter, each caught my attention, and kept me turning pages.

Before things got too heavy, I chose Sarah Silverman’s The Bedwetter: Tales of Courage, Redemption , and Pee (2010) as my airplane read. I’m a white-knuckle flyer, and I figured the caustic comedian’s memoir would take my mind off the fact that I was hurtling through the sky miles above a vast body of water. Luckily, the flight was mostly turbulence-free and I was able to make it halfway through the book without having to cry or pray. Whether Silverman was riffing on her chronic bedwetting problem—which continued into her teens and caused her to bemoan any invitation containing the word “sleepover”—or talking about what it felt like to be a Saturday Night Live writer, the actress/author is enigmatic and truthful in her telling (although there’s not nearly enough dirt on former beau Jimmy Kimmel). The book is silly, as to be expected, but it’s also smart.

Let the Great World Spin (2009), Colum McCann’s sprawling tale of love, loss and tightrope-walking in New York City in the 1970s, was next on my reading list. Although I’d been told the award-winning novel was “really, really sad,” I managed to find a lot of hope among the book’s many protagonists, which include a tough-yet-kind Irish priest, a beautiful artist who makes a terrible mistake, women of various classes who’ve lost their sons to Vietnam, mother-daughter hookers and a Guatemalan nurse (among others). McCann, an Irish author, manages to realistically capture a past era in American history while at the same time directing subtle attention to the Big Apple’s modern-day atrocities.

After McCann’s dazzling literary display, I dove directly into Robert Goolrick’s A Reliable Wife (2009). It gave me great pleasure to recline on a hammock in 78-degree weather while reading about events transpiring in a brutally cold 1907 winter, but I realized early on the storyline was designed to heat readers up. The book focuses on Ralph Truitt, the wealthiest man in a small town in Wisconsin, and his mail-order bride, who most definitely isn’t the “reliable wife” she claimed to be in her letters. There’s sex, murder, madness and, above all, a storyline that baited me, line after line, until I was hooked.

I kept the spousal theme going with Paula McClain’s The Paris Wife (2011), a tale of marital mayhem chronicling the relationship between serial groom Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. While the book gives some insight into the historically interesting couple’s lives, it also had me wondering why the women who subsequently married the great writer assumed he’d treat them any better than he did Richardson.

Julie Otsaka’s Buddha in the Attic, Melanie Benjamin’s Alice I Have Been, and Irene Nemirovksy’s Suite Francaise were also read, and are books I’d easily recommend, whether you’re reading them in paradise or within the cloud of cold and fog currently embracing the Pacific Northwest. After all, a good read is a good read, no matter where you are.

Ticket Cascadia
More Words...
Block Party
Making memories at Make.Shift

By the time this issue hits the streets, summer will be morphing into fall and everyone will be making their way inside to sip hot cocoa, knit scarves out of hand-dyed wool and count the rising number of falling leaves from their living-room windows.

Or not. With the Make.Shift Block…

more »
Memory Into Memoir
Red Wheelbarrow Writers tell their tales

It’s partially hidden by the leaves of a tall tree in summer months, but in cooler seasons, the mural of William Carlos Williams’ iconic poem “The Red Wheelbarrow”—and an accompanying visual depiction of the feathered fowl amid the gardening implements mentioned in the verse—stands out…

more »
Evicted
Of poverty and profit

Milwaukee landlord Sherrena has a strategy. Rather than seek out neighborhoods that will appreciate over time, she buys in areas with depressed property values, buildings where the condition is rough and renters are poor.

Her reasoning? Low-income housing pays. “The ‘hood is good,”…

more »
Events
Today
A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

We Grow Market

3:00pm|Northwest Youth Services

Yoga for Outdoor Fitness

6:00pm|REI

Candidate Forum

6:30pm|PUD Building

Cooking with Sea Vegetables

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

The Happy Elf Auditions

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Open Mic

7:00pm|Village Books

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

Everybody’s Store Artifacts Wine Bar
Tomorrow
Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

The Happy Elf Auditions

7:00pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

Making Miso

4:00pm|Skagit Valley Food Co-op

Bingo in Blaine

6:00pm|Blaine Senior Center

All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Not If But When

6:00pm|Burlington Public Library

Wonton and Char Siu

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Roving Cocktail Party

6:30pm|Gretchen's Kitchen

Bellingham Reads

6:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Eagle Presentation

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Blackfish Prophecy

7:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Beginning Square Dance

7:00pm|Ten Mile Grange

Monastery Talk

7:00pm|Bellingham Shambhala Meditation Center

Swinomish 2016 Village Books
Wednesday
A gold medal standard

4:00pm

Eat Local Month

4:00pm|Bellingham and Whatcom County

Whatcom Water Week

10:00am|Whatcom County

Bellingham City Club Meeting

11:30am|Northwood Hall

Lynden Book Club

12:30pm|Lynden Library

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Fun with Fermentation

4:00pm|Blaine Library

Ukulele for Everyone

4:00pm|Everson Library

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Bokashi Composting

6:30pm|Cordata Community Food Co-op

Teton Gravity Research's Tight Loose

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Bebel Gilberto

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Bebel Gilberto

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Village Books CW BOB 2016 Everybody’s Store Swinomish 2016 Artifacts Wine Bar Andrew Subin Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Bellingham Farmer’s Market Northwood Steak and Crab