Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Sunday Salon: In Which Simon LeBon and Rob Sheffield Pull Me Out of My Funk

There's nothing like a little '80s music and nostalgia to pull one out of a funk, is there?

I think I might be starting to come out of the reading funk I mentioned in last week's Salon, and I have Rob Sheffield to thank.  Rob is the genius of the brilliantly written and absolutely hilarious memoir Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut, which is the book I turned to this week after yet another DNF.  (More on that in a bit.)

If you are a child of The Big Hair Generation, as I am, then you will love this book.  I think I needed something funny and irreverent to break through the reading funk, and this is certainly delivering in a big way.

(It's more than the reading funk, truth be told. It has been A Week. The kids were off from school for six days - parent-teacher conferences, inservice days, President's Day - making them all dysregulated and out of sorts, and then on the day they were supposed to return to school we were greeted with the upteenth snow day of the year.  The Husband's last day of his job was on Wednesday, so there was the stress of finishing that up.  Then on Thursday, he got into a car accident.  Thankfully, he is OK (it was the other guy's fault and everyone agrees that such was the case) and everything seems to be moving along with the car repairs and getting a rental - which was important because he leaves for the new job this morning, which is 5 hours away and making me a single parent during the week and probably some weekends, at least until our house sells. Which I am in the process of getting ready for the market in order for that to actually have a chance in this crappy market of happening.)

So yeah, you could say that I need to revisit my carefree youth.  With Talking to Girls About Duran Duran, I'm definitely enjoying the opportunity to forget about life for awhile (yeah, yeah, yeah, I know "Piano Man" was from '73 and the previous generation ... so sue me) even if I don't recognize all the '80s songs Rob Sheffield writes about in this memoir.

During this crazy week, somehow I was able to read two other short novels: Tinkers, by Paul Harding and All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang.

Paul Harding's writing in Tinkers is gorgeous and poetic, and I enjoyed this short novel on that basis alone.  The narrative is a little confusing and unwieldy in parts, but the writing always brings one back to the story of George Washington Crosby, who reflects on his life and the memory of his father as he is dying.

After Tinkers, I turned to All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost.  I saw this one on the library's new books shelf and was intrigued to learn that author Lan Samantha Chang is the director of the famed Iowa Writers Workshop.  (As a teen in the '80s, I always thought it would be fascinating to go to the Iowa Writers Workshop.  'Course, the fact that it was in Iowa was a bit daunting to this girl in the Philly suburbs, but an aspiring writer needs something to dream about, right?) 

Chang's prose is tight and the pacing is such that the narrative in All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost  flows almost effortlessly. (I read this over the course of one day, starting at lunchtime and then finishing it up in the evening.)  It's a nicely-written character-driven book that makes one think about how much credit we owe those who have influenced our success and the intangible currency that we all use to pay the price.

I have the reviews of these written, but am not sure when I'll post them.  Probably sometime this week.

Two more books to tell you about today.  Alas, there was a DNF (did not finish) in my stack these week. While browsing the library's shelves, When She Was Electric by Andrea MacPherson piqued my interest because of the title and the cover.  I hadn't heard anything about this (it was published in 2003) so I picked it up.  This one was just slow getting started, and just seemed flat.  I gave this one the ol' page 50 test and abandoned it.  These weren't characters who I felt like spending much time with, to be honest.

Finally, I finished the audiobook of American Salvage (which also marks my reaching my 3 audiobook goal for the 2011 Audiobook Challenge, which I am now revising since that was way too easy).  This collection of 14 short stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell was a finalist for the 2009 National Book Award. You all know how much I love my short stories, but this collection was rough. They're well-written, but these are people who are more than down-and-out; they are meth addicts, abusers, and thieves, and the stories are so damn depressing.  Not recommended if you're in a tough place of your own (because the reality is that in this sad economy, there are many people who can relate to the folks in American Salvage, or fear they will wind up like them.)

So today, a new chapter in our lives awaits with The Husband's new job.  While he's driving toward our future, I'm planning to go back to the future by spending some time Talking with Girls About Duran Duran. 

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

Oh, I wish you the best in selling the house...every time I think about the time when mine was on the market, and how it fell out of escrow once before finally selling...not to mention all those days of trying to keep everything "perfect" for buyers...ugh!

As for reading, I like the idea of the 80s memoir...even though, in looking back, I think the eighties were a time of "denial," it was kind of fun. To see some more "big hair," visit my Sunday Salon...although the picture was taken in the early nineties, it was definitely still 80s hair...LOL


Anonymous said...

My gosh, I think you deserve a reading funk, at this point. It puts my "reading funk" in perspective, that's for sure. Mine is just winter-related.

Oh, and I like your 50-page rule too for deciding whether to DNF a book. Unfortunately, I didn't stick to that rule earlier in the year and should have.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, talk about stress! No wonder you've been in a reading funk! It sounds like light, fun reading was just what the doctor ordered.

Trisha said...

"Funny and irreverant" is exactly what I use to get me out of reading funks too. There's just something about that particular style of writing that can cut through my malaise and get me hooked on a book.

Florinda said...

Glad you found something to shake you out of that reading funk! I've had the Sheffield book on my wish list for a while - it's in "waiting for the paperback" mode right now. In any case, if we're still planning to read The Corrections next month, we need to get psyched up :-).

Despite the start of your single-parenting phase, I really hope this week is smoother than last week was!

Iliana said...

I'm sorry to hear about your husband's accident - yikes! Glad to hear he's fine but that on top of a pending move, no wonder you've been in a reading funk. Sending you good vibes for less stress.

Have you read Rob Sheffield's first book? Love is a Mixed Tape - I think that's the title - really good. I need to read this one.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

The Sheffield book sounds like a lot of fun...a colleague and I were singing and watching youtube videos the other day of 80's gems...we were supposed to be grading papers...ahem

I wish you best of luck on selling your husband and I have been through the move with spouses living in separate places twice...not my most favorite house sold in 7 days though! I'll be hoping you have that kind of luck!