"}
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.

SVCR-0604_GritsGlamour_770x150-CW
More Words...
Library Love
Crossing the digital divide

For me, frugality is a way of life.

Even when my coffers are full, I look for the best ways to save money—whether it’s by buying items at thrift stores or garage sales, growing my own food, utilizing coupons for nights out on the town or scouring Craigslist’s free section.

When I got a…

more »
The Girls
Cults, charisma and murder

With a publication date at the beginning of summer, Emma Cline’s debut novel, The Girls, has made a big splash on summer reading lists. And, no surprise, the story of a Manson-like cult in 1969 California will appeal to many types of readers.

Those who experienced the late 1960s will…

more »
Endless Summer
In search of the perfect wave

An estimated two million Americans surfed at least once last year, part of a worldwide surfing population explosion that The Economist reports may top 35 million. The international surfing industry is expected to generate $13.2 billion annually by 2017. 

Clearly, interest in surfing is at…

more »
Events
Today
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bow Little Market

1:00pm|Belfast Feed Store

Garden Dedication

3:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Blues, Brews & BBQ

5:00pm|Hotel Bellwether

Vintner Dinner

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Riverwalk Summer Concert Series

6:00pm|Riverwalk Park

Move to Amend

6:00pm|Mount Vernon

Fiction Writing Group

6:00pm|Village Books,

Elizabeth Park Concert Series

6:00pm|Elizabeth Park

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

5 Point Film Festival Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Tomorrow
Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

What's Next?

9:00am|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Wild Things

9:30am|Lake Padden

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Ferndale Farmers Market

1:00pm|Cherry Street

Barbecues and Beach Parties

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

Summer Concert Series Finale

6:00pm|Seafarers Park

Art Party

6:00pm|Tillie Lace Gallery

Farm Tunes

6:00pm|BelleWood Acres

Final Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

Final Dancing on the Green

7:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Wine and Music

7:00pm|Artifacts Cafe and Wine Bar

A Little Night Music

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Doubles

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Northwood Steak and Crab Artifacts Wine Bar
Saturday
5Point Adventure Film Festival

10:00am|Downtown Bellingham

Skagit Tours

10:00am|Highway 20

Boating Center Open

12:00pm|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead

8:00pm|Cirque Lab

Plover Rides

12:00pm|Blaine Harbor

Barbecues and Beach Parties

5:30pm|Semiahmoo Resort

Ferndale Street Festival

6:00pm|Downtown Ferndale

Final Sin & Gin Tours

7:00pm|Historic Fairhaven and downtown Bellingham

A Little Night Music

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center

Doubles

9:00pm|Upfront Theatre

Pancake Breakfast

8:00am|American Legion Hall

Twin Sisters Farmers Market

9:00am|Nugent's Corner

Sedro Car Show

9:00am|United General Fitness Center

Mount Vernon Farmers Market

9:00am|Riverfront Plaza

Anacortes Farmers Market

9:00am|Depot Arts Center

Island Market

10:00am|Islander Grocery

Blaine Gardeners Market

10:00am|Peace Portal Drive

Bellingham Farmers Market

10:00am|Depot Market Square

Wondermud

10:00am|Bellingham BMX

Discover Birch Bay Days

10:00am|Birch Bay Drive

Sumas Writers Group

10:00am|Sumas Library

Improv for Kids

10:30am|Improv Playworks

Fidalgo Bay Day

11:00am|Fidalgo Bay Resort

A Swinging Weekend

12:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Holly Street History Tour

1:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

This Old House

2:00pm|Point Roberts Community Center

Nooksack River Walk

3:00pm|Horseshoe Bend Trailhead

Drinking for Dogs

4:00pm|Green Frog Acoustic Tavern

Downtown Throwdown

4:00pm|Public Market

Scary Monster & the Super Creeps

5:00pm|Heart of Anacortes

Toys for Tots Benefit Concert

5:00pm|Eagle Haven Winery

Moonlight in Margaritaville

5:30pm|Maple Hall

An Evening with Ann Morris

7:30pm| Lummi Island Library

Circus on the Water

8:00pm|Lookout Arts Quarry and Boundary Bay Brewery

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Artifacts Wine Bar Andrew Subin Swinomish 2016 Northwood Steak and Crab Bellingham Farmer’s Market 5 Point Film Festival