Wednesday, June 30, 2010

#61 Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Willie Loman can’t get a break. All his life he’s been traveling the country, shilling items that are as useless as he feels. Then Willie loses his job, the thing that defined him and gave him purpose. His son Biff has inherited Willie’s lack of ambition, but this has not always been so. Something caused Biff to lose all interest in making something of himself. Was it because Willie always taught Biff that hard work is unnecessary, that being well-liked is enough? Partly. But there is another reason, one that only Willie and Biff know. Willie does not carry it to his grave, but this secret helps to send him there.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

#60 Boy by Roald Dahl

One of the most beautifully crafted memoirs I have ever read. Roald Dahl, that genius of children’s literature, enchants us with true tales of his eventful childhood. There was the time he and three friends hid a dead mouse in the gobstoppers jar of Mrs. Pratchett’s candy shop, and the time when, at 9 years old, he had his adenoids cut out from his throat without anesthesia (or even warning). Some of these events one can hardly believe, but one can hardly ignore Dahl’s strident assertion at the beginning of the book that all of them are true. These stories will make you laugh out loud and pause in quiet wonder.

Monday, June 28, 2010

#59 Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

This book is like a 1960s Sex and the City, with more drugs, albeit just as much sex. Anne, our heroine, moves from a small New England town to New York City. where her good looks land her a job at an advertising agency. There, she meets ad-exec and notorious ladies man, Lyon Burke. Anne falls for him immediately, but he proves to be just as elusive as “Mr. Big.” Anne’s sometime friend Neely (who is just plain evil) reaches fame’s mountaintops, in Broadway and Hollywood, before sliding down the slopes of drug abuse and treachery. Jennifer, the blond bombshell, hits the rock bottom of the valley of the dolls.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

#58 Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

If you can’t be with your one true love, here’s some advice: marry her sister! That way you can be close to the one you love, at least on holidays and family occasions, anyway. Sounds like an asinine idea, but Pedro, Tita De La Garza’s true love, doesn’t think so. Tita’s mother, Mama Elena, refuses to let Pedro and Tita marry, so Pedro marries Tita’s older sister, Rosaura, instead. Tita, a gifted cook, prepares the wedding feast and her food magically causes everyone to feel her pain. Pedro soon realizes that marrying Rosaura instead of Tita was like substituting water for sumptuous chocolate in the mystical recipe for true love.

Monday, June 21, 2010

#57 The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, Bengali emigrants, name their baby son “Gogol” when a letter from Ashima’s grandmother containing a Bengali name for the baby never arrives. It is the family tradition to have a family elder name new children, and the missing letter symbolizes the inner search that the child must undertake to find his own identity as a Bengali-American. Gogol Ganguli, a.k.a. Nikil, a.k.a. Nick, changes his name in order to shake off his Bengali culture, but soon discovers that changing one’s name does not change one’s heritage or history. Seems like a rose isn’t the only thing that by any other name would still remain the same.