Tag Archives: Penguin Books USA

Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir by Tyler Feder

Dancing at the Pity Party - A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir by Tyler Feder

Title: Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir
Author: Tyler Feder
Publisher: Dial Books
ISBN: 9780525553021
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are so many books written on how to deal with the death of a loved one. So many of them. In different ways, at different places, and each time I read a book on how to deal with the death of a loved one, it just makes it harder, no matter how much time has passed. Do we really get over? Do we really move on?

“Dancing at the Pity Party: A Dead Mom Graphic Memoir” by Tyler Feder is a tribute to her mother, and the full life she led till she lost her mom to cancer. The funny times spent together, the sad ones recalled, and the ones that will be lived without her – all of it makes this book so relatable for anyone who has lost a loved one. I found myself smiling and crying through this graphic memoir. I found myself thinking about my father who died twenty years ago.

Feder speaks of the intimate details – of the times she turned to look for her mother and she wasn’t there. Of how she coped and coped and tried so hard to fit in after her mother’s death, which was even more difficult for an introvert even before. Of how some old traditions need to go and new ones need to take their place. Of how her father and her siblings processed this grief.

“Dancing at the Pity Party” isn’t an easy read, and it being a graphic memoir doesn’t ease the pain either, if you have also lost a loved one. But read you must. It is emotional and funny and answers all questions you might’ve had when it came to how to deal with your grief. It is the kind of books that stay and stick to the heart. A read that helped me cope.

Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth by Benjamin Taylor

Here We Are - My Friendship with Philip Roth by Benjamin Taylor

Title: Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth
Author: Benjamin Taylor
Publisher: Penguin Books USA 
ISBN: 978-1524705787
Genre: Literary Memoirs
Pages: 192 
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 3/5 

With the passing of time, and as you become older, you are set in your ways. There are some things you cannot change, and perhaps don’t wish to either. And somewhere down the line, much against your will (I think), you end up making new friends, and somehow, they stay. Them coupled with the ones who know you and who you know inside-out. I thought this book would be about that – a friendship.

Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth by Benjamin Taylor is exactly what the title says or should’ve been. It started off with so much promise – the first two chapters of a rather small book, and then you got to see the promise only in the last two chapters and that was that. I expected more. I expected glimpses into their friendship, but all I got was Benjamin Taylor gushing over Roth’s works. Well, it is a literary memoir, but then why tell us that it is a friendship with Roth, and then not reveal enough to feel something.

This is the second book read this year, and once again not very impressed by it. The writing like I said shines in places, and leaves you wanting more. Taylor speaks of Roth and his thoughts on being Jewish in the world. Of his characters, his parents (very briefly), his wives (again not too much other than speaking of Claire Bloom), and about being an atheist and such. But never does he speak of what it was to be his friend and vice-versa, except till the very end. Taylor knows so much about Roth, and yet the reader is left with nothing. There are several literary references – more than enough books (Roth’s and others’) that are mentioned. It makes for a great reading list but that’s about it.

Books and Authors mentioned in Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth:

Playlist for Here We Are: My Friendship with Philip Roth:

  • The House I Live In by Frank Sinatra
  • On A Note of Triumph by Norman Corwin
  • Emerson Quartet
  • Friends will Be Friends by Queen
  • Bach
  • Beethoven
  • Brahms
  • Piku’s Sarod Theme
  • Pather Panchali Theme
  • Who Wants to Live Forever by Queen

So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading by Sara Nelson

So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson Title: So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading
Author: Sara Nelson
Publisher: Berkley Trade
ISBN: 978-0425198193
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoirs, Reading
Pages: 256
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars
Started: 24th of December 2014
Ended: 1st of January 2015

The popular adage, “So Many Books, So Little Time” couldn’t be truer. There is always the case of wanting to lap up all those words and sentences and passages and books that have withstood the test of time and the ones that are new on the literature horizon. There is always more and being the hungry reader that I am (or really hope I am), I have always felt this way. With this in mind, there are times (most often than not) that I love reading books about books and an author’s experiences in reading. “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair” was one such book that completely broke my heart and mended it right back for the love of literature that Nina had. “So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading” by Sara Nelson is a great book on the love of books and the power of literature.

Sara Nelson decided one New Year’s Day to read fifty-two books in that year and link those reads to the on-goings of her personal life. That is how the book “So Many Books, So Little Time” was born. The idea of the book is to talk about reading but obviously, but also as a reader you are privy to Sara’s world – that of her family, her work and life in general. This is what makes the book so intimate and special. She talks of her roles of being a daughter, mother, wife and sister and effortlessly there are books in every stage. Of the squabbles between her and her sister, of how she chose her books and how some books just came along her way to the way books have always been integral to her life.

I guess for every reader this book hits home. We have all gone through some of it. Of trying to balance home and work and read at the same time. Of just wanting to curl with your favourite read and forget about the world. For Nelson, this book happens to be “Marjorie Morningstar” by Herman Wouk; a story of a young girl’s coming into her own and discovering the world and her. Nelson first read this book when she was sixteen and it stayed. When she went back to it, something had changed. Either she had outgrown the book or the book had outgrown her. Such experiences in reading and the love of the written word make the book what it is: An absolute delight to read.

There are also her thoughts on reading which makes the book funny in most places. My favourite parts of the book are when she is talking about evolving as a reader and how she can’t imagine life without a book at hand. I also thought that the idea of revisiting writers and reading their works in succession feels like going out on a second or third date too soon to her, which I couldn’t agree more with. She talks of lending and borrowing books, of how books cure everything, and how she just can’t do any bedtime reading to her son. And most of all what I could connect with is the recommendation part – where Nelson talks about how difficult it is to get along with people whose book recommendations you did not like and you know for a fact that just by that you will never connect with those people. It has happened to me – several times.

Let me give you an example of her writing:

Explaining the moment of connection between a reader and a book to someone who’s never experienced it is like trying to describe sex to a virgin.

See what I mean? This is what “So Many Books, So Little Time” is about. About books and more books and also when the year ended and she succeeded in her resolution; the idea was to perhaps stop for a while and see the world as well, with renewed eyes and renewed perception, only with a stronger determination and faith that books will always remain.

Here are some of my favourite parts of the book for you to preview:

Book lovers simply have no choice: we can’t tear ourselves away from the beloved.
A book is a way to shut out the noise of the world. It’s a way to be alone without being totally alone.
I believe that an unreturned book between friends is like a debt unpaid.
I’ve decided never to lie again about what books I’ve read. If I haven’t read something everybody else says they did, I won’t say I have.
When the going gets tough, the tough get reading.
But I approach a novel, no matter how difficult or sophisticated or “literary”, as a form of “pleasure and connection.”
Hell hath no fury like an expectant reader scorned.
To read a book is to have a relationship. And I’ve had dozens of them in the past dozen months.

P.S: Do not forget to read the appendixes of the books she wanted to read, the books she read and the books that still pile on in the to-be-read shelf.

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Book Review: The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma Title: The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards
Author: Kristopher Jansma
Publisher: Viking
ISBN: 978-0670026005
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 272
Source: Agent
Rating: 5/5

When one chances on a unique book, one doesn’t question it. One just reads and allows him or herself to get washed away in its beauty of words and language and so to say, enjoy the experience, for whatever time it lasts. There are very few works of art that manage to bring that out in me and when they do, then I do not think twice about giving in. The giving in process then takes place on its own. Before you know it, the novel has claimed you and you are in a trance. You wait for the book to be over and then want some more. The characters do not let go and you are waiting, wondering what to read next. This happens to me most of the time and it happened off-late when I finished reading, “The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards” by Kristopher Jansma.

It was the title that did it for me. Sometimes titles play a very important role in luring the reader to pick up the book and give it a go. I have always believed in that and this time as well, it worked for me. The book is about a writer who wants his life to change and thereby his tale begins. He is the narrator of the book and he is out there to confess it all – of all that took place and how he got to be where he is at.

The narrator is an enigma of sorts. He isn’t named throughout the book. His so-called nemesis is also his friend – Julian McGann is at the height of the literary peak and the narrator isn’t anywhere close to that. He is struggling with his book and only wants it to be the very best. Amidst all this but of course is a woman to sort of complete the story. Julian’s enchanting friend Evelyn, the mysterious girl who got away and the narrator hankers after. The narrator is almost caught in two worlds – that of fiction and reality, trying to make sense of life and his story.
Let me also tell you that this is a debut novel and it is beyond brilliant. Jansma has followed only one rule while writing this book: There are no rules to writing. To me that is a bold step, which totally works where the writing style is concerned. It sometimes reads as a meta-novel, sometimes just random sentences that come together beautifully and sometimes just confusing, which makes sense after a while.

There are losses along the way that the narrator faces and the reader’s heart goes out to him. The read is challenging. It does take some time to get into the skin of the characters, however once you are into it, you understand the method in the sort of madness. The story takes place almost around the globe, which to me was one of the other highlights. The pace works like a charm and before you know it, you are done with this rollercoaster of an experience. It is pleasure to absorb just about everything in this book. It is clever, funny, romantic and sullen as well. “The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards” is about life.

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