Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Mother's Day

The Sunday Salon.com

It's Mother's Day and I have managed to read a little. My husband and children's main gift to me is the time to go out to lunch alone with my own mother (a rare treat), with a little alone time thrown in, so I can read.

My precious moments have been spent reading Alice Munro's collection of stories The View from Castle Rock. I really enjoyed Munro's last book, Runaway, and I'm enjoying this, too. It's different from her earlier books because it's more personal. She's writing about her ancestors, from when they lived in 18th century Scotland, through their immigrating and settling in rural Canada, and then continuing with a possibly semi-autobiographical present. Though Munro has mostly created fiction about her ancestors, there is something in the solidity of dates and details that makes the reader know without being told that these are real people.

I like Munro's melding of fact and fiction. Her writing style suits the combination. I always love Munro's characters, because they often seem to be holding something back. I wonder how Munro does this. The characters are fully realized, they are beautifully drawn, and yet there remains a mystery about them that I find appealing. Maybe that's what makes them feel so real.

Is it just me, or does the paperback cover for this book not seem to suit its subject matter?

Here's the paperback cover:


And here's the hardback cover:

I don't know, I'm not usually very cynical, but that looks like one of the most obvious marketing ploys I've ever seen! To me, the hardback cover suits the book, as the title, "The View From Castle Rock", comes from an anecdote about a father bringing a son up to Castle Rock in Edinburgh to look out over the sea and see America--though what they are really seeing is Fife, the county across the Firth of Forth, five miles away at the most. I haven't finished the book, but so far have not come across any scenes of beach-going, sunbathing women, as seen on the paperback cover. Though perhaps they are in there--I haven't finished the book yet. Maybe someone out there can enlighten me!

I've also dipped into Lynne Sharon Schwartz's Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books, which I mooched off of BookMooch. It is a memoir about the joys and pitfalls of the reading life, and though I'm only 10 pages in, I'm enjoying it immensely. I love Schwartz's use of language. And as is usual in a book about reading, I see myself in her.

She talks about not finishing books, something I only recently have learned to do:
Over the last ten years or so, I have managed not to finish certain books. With barely a twinge of conscience, I hurl down what bores me or doesn't give what I crave: ecstasy, transcendence, a thrill of mysterious connection. For, more than anything, readers are thrill-seekers, though I don't read thrillers, not the kind sold under that label, anyway. They don't thrill; only language thrills.
I'm really looking forward to the rest of this book!

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14 comments:

SmallWorld Reads said...

The Schwartz book sounds great; I'm adding it to my TBR list!

SmallWorld Reads

litlove said...

Happy Mother's Day, gentle reader! I do like to think of you having some time to yourself to read. I really enjoyed the Munroe and could not agree with you more about the cover - what's that got to do with anything?? Love the sound of the book about reading, too. I will have to see if I can get hold of it.

Gentle Reader said...

smallworld--I like the Schwartz a lot :)

litlove--thanks for the Mother's Day wishes. I'm glad you agree with me on the cover! I think you would like Schwartz's sensibility; hope you can find the book :)

TJ said...

Hello. I found you at Bloglily. Munroe is a favorite of mine, and I think you're spot on in your description of her characters as appealing because they seem to be holding something back. After Lives of Girls and Women, Runaway is my favorite. I haven't read View from Castle Rock yet, but will do so now. The book Ruined by Reading sounds great as well. Lovely post. Lovely site. Thanks! TJ

Gentle Reader said...

tj--I just checked out your site--wow, it's great! I love blogLily, too. And I'm a big fan of Munro's style. I loved Runaway, and really must go back and re-read some of her earlier work. Thanks for stopping by!

Eloise said...

I find covers like that dreadfully cynical, and a turn off but maybe I'm in teh minority. The Scwartz book sounds great fun, I love the title.

Gentle Reader said...

eloise--I agree--covers like that are cynical! I'm enjoying the Schwartz book, hope you get a chance to read it :)

verbivore said...

I need to get a copy of the Schwartz book, sounds like something I would really enjoy.
I also really enjoy Alice Munro but have not yet read The View from Castle Rock (except the bits which were excerpted in the New Yorker). She's so talented isn't she?

Gentle Reader said...

verbivore--yes, she is talented! And I think you would like the Schwartz, too :)

tanabata said...

Ruined by Reading sounds great. And I agree with you about the covers. I wonder if the summer beach cover will pay off. If I didn't see the title and author's name I'd probably assume it was chick lit.

Gentle Reader said...

tanabata--I'm enjoying Ruined by Reading. And you're right about the cover--now that you mention it, when I first saw a display of this book at Borders, I mistook it for chick lit! Marketing is amazing, isn't it?

Susan said...

Same for me, I want the Schwartz book now! I went to Amazon to check if it was available, and I like the quote given from the book that Schwartz says "reading books is an experience, I gain experience from reading, so I don't have to go out and do things." Or something along those lines....I wish I'd had this to quote to my mother! Thanks for the review!!

Bybee said...

Oh, the Schwartz book looks delish...

Gentle Reader said...

susan--So far the Schwartz book has many great quotes--I'll have to look for that one, lol!

bybee--I'm finding the Schwartz book to be amusing and I really relate to it :)