Monday, December 17, 2007

Bits from the Bookshelf

I've been getting books in the mail (yeah!), picking up stuff from library "new books" shelf, borrowing from friends... some snippets from the recent reads:

Lucia Perillo, I've Heard the Vultures Singing (Trinity University Press 2007), a collection of personal essays by a poet; the last paragraph in the chapter "Definition of Terms":
Sometimes I'll be rolling along the streets and a shout will ring from the dampness and the dark--Cripple! This will unhinge me not because the word is offensive but because I realize how visible I am, how I have lost, forever and utterly, the ability to blend in. All my life, isn't this what I aspired toward--being a distinctive someone? And haven't I, like the protagonist of the fairy tale, finally gotten what was once my fervent wish?
Here's a review of Perillo's book by blogger and poet Ron Slate.

Lori Lansens,
The Girls (Little Brown 2005), a novel about conjoined twins, told in their alternating voices:
The strangest thing about strange things is that they're only strange when you hear about them or imagine them or think about them later, but never when you're living with them. (I believe I can speak about that with some authority.) (p 206)
Dave Hingsburger mentioned liking The Girls on Chewing the Fat recently; and Redondowriter also mentioned reading it. There's also an unabridged audio version on CD.

Elizabeth McCracken, The Giant's House
(Dial Press 1996), a novel about "the tallest boy in the world" (based somewhat on the life of Robert Wadlow), narrated by the young man's friend, a librarian:
It isn't that I ever forgot that James was tall. No way to forget, not when everything in the average-sized world conspired to remind both him and others. But I could forget that it was something people would not be prepared for, that the sight of a body like his would cause them to think: but that's not possible. It can't be true. (p 200)
Iain Hutchison, A History of Disability in Nineteenth-Century Scotland (Edwin Mellen Press 2007), a friend's historical study (exactly what the title indicates); from the introduction:
The well-intentioned roles of philanthropists, educators, medical professionals, administrators, clergy, and 'the rest' have been widely documented. But the focus of their attention and possible intervention, people with disabilities, had little voice with which to express how they felt about their lives, their circumstances, their frustrations and their aspirations. Yet people with impairments should be placed centre-stage, and not on the periphery of external intervention, in considering any history of disability. This is what this study endeavours to do. (p vi)
There are more, but as usual I forget to mark interesting passages and afterwards can't quite find them... Diane Setterfield's novel The Thirteenth Tale (Washington Square Press 2007) features a whole family of characters that might be considered mad, or at least very odd, in all the usual ways of a gothic tale that references Jane Eyre, often; Michelle de Kretser's The Hamilton Case (Little Brown 2003) is about the last days of colonial rule and the first years of independence in Sri Lanka; one main character, Maud, is an older woman shut away in a disintegrating home, herself in the process of mental and physical "declines" (which she experiences, against the usual construction, as awakenings, to color, to the natural world, to her own needs and comforts). Nearly all the characters in de Kretser's book are unpleasant, but Maud at least becomes more interesting as she progresses into old age.