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RecommendationsSeptember 24, 2007

Hello, kids.

I read the BEST book last week. I can't recommend it enough.

A Three Dog Life, by Abigail Thomas. From the Publisher's Weekly review:

Stephen King's front-cover endorsement of Thomas's memoir as the best he's ever read—and a "punch to the heart"—will surely pique interest in this wrenching, elegiac portrait of her third husband, Rich, who flounders in a miasmic present after a hit-and-run in their Manhattan neighborhood shatters his skull, destroys his short-term memory and consigns him to permanent brain trauma.

I realize that might not grab you -- sounds dark and depressing, and indeed, much of the book deals with dark, depressing things. But it's not a medical memoir, nor is it a book about dogs (although dogs are featured, wonderful dogs), it's just the author, grabbing vignettes in her life and illustrating them so clearly and immediately that I sat stunned in front of phrases, unable to move on, mumbling them to myself in wonder. Seriously. When did you last do that with a book?

It's a quick read, sadly. I tried to make it last, not allowing myself to read it in bed, only at work, lines snatched between phone calls and emergencies and gossiping co-workers. Now that I'm done, I'm considering re-reading it. I never re-read books anymore, but I want to read this one again, to live in her language some more.

Here, from page 30:

   Twenty years ago I asked a friend if he felt (as I did) a kind of chronic longing, a longing I wanted to identify. "Of course," he answered. We were having lunch by the pond at 59th Street, watching the ducks. The sun was out, the grass was thick and green, the ducks paddled around in the not very blue pond. I was between lives. "What is it?" I asked. "What is it we are longing for?" He thought for a minute and said, "There isn't any it. There is just the longing for it." This sounded exactly right. Years later and a little wiser, I know what the longing was for: here is where I belong.

"I was between lives." That sentence! Just smacked in there! Completely knocks me out. And I've never read that longing we all have so clearly described.

I'm in love with the book. Plus, she knits. (Buy it from your independent seller, though, obviously. Amazon link is just there for convenience.)

It's autumn here today! Crisp, cool -- the house was chilly when I woke up and I put on wool socks. How I love to have to put on handknit socks. I'm at the cafe, and I'm going to write for a while. Then I'm going home to meet the roofer -- get the leaks fixed before the real rains. And I want to make pumpkin bread. Then, maybe, if I have time, I'd like to go to the movies. I want to see Becoming Jane (oh, looks like I missed that one), 2 Days in Paris, and Death at a Funeral. Perhaps The Jane Austen Book Club (although I couldn't finish the book). We saw 3:10 to Yuma yesterday, and DAMN was that a good western. I'd highly recommend it. Full of recommendations today, aren't I?

I also recommend y'all love on someone today. Yep.


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Well, the book doesn't sound like my kind of thing, and I don't have time to see a movie or bake pumpkin bread today, and it's too warm for wool socks here yet.

But I will definitely love on someone today. Good recommendation.

Man, I missed "Becoming Jane" already? oops ... I almost bought the Jane Austen Book Club set from Costco with Pride and Prejudice, but I think I'll wait for the movie now ...

Thanks for all the recommendations! I've been thinking that 3:10 to Yuma looked interesting...

I completely agree about Three Dog Life. I hesitated to read it for a long time, it hit a little too close to home for me, but she captures the beauty, the surreal moments, and the weirdly good moments in creating a new life when something you never wanted to happen happens. It was one of those rare books that made me want to underline things and write in the margins. She gets it.

Have you read "Here If You Need Me," by Kate Braestrup? It left me with the overwhelming desire to move to Maine and maybe become a Unitarian minister.

The last time I read a book like that was "Seven Types of Ambiguity" by Elliot Perlman.

I often found myself wanting to underline or highlight things. I have never been able to do that with novels, but the urge was there. It's a beautifully written story with intriguing characters and a unique narration technique.

I don't recommend reading Amazon's blurb about the book, because it would give away some details about the narration technique that I feel are best learned in reading the story.


a strong second for THREE DOG LIFE. i read it about a week ago as well! totally made me cry, but in a good way. it's a really beautiful book.

oh and p.s. i also like 'seven types of ambiguity' recommended in one of the comments...

The quote from the book reminded me of a quote from the book "Becoming Jane" about Jane Austen. Jane is describing her niece: "She is quite an Anna with variations, but she cannot have reached her last, for that is always the most flourishing and shewey - she is at about her third or fourth which are generally simple and pretty." I tend to thin of the last variation as coming back to our true selves.

That was a wonderful book. You may also like one called A Pack of Two. I can't remember the authors name but she previously wrote a really good book on being an alchoholic and stopping drinking. I highly recommend it.

I was JUST looking at that book at B&N this weekend. Now I may really have to buy it!

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