Monday, April 13, 2009

Reviews: Ego Trips in Annual Doses

Lately, I've read (or endured) several books written that had as a theme a year's worth of thru Julia's cookbook, (Julie and Julia:365 days, 564 recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen) finding oneself in a bowl of pasta or an ashram or a hut in Indonesia, (Eat, Pray, Love) living in a foreign country without knowing the language or customs and complaining because things weren't like they were in the US, (A Year in Provence, Sixpence House, A year of No Money in Tokyo,) and deciding to read the Bible and live it literally --to hell with what his wife wanted--(A Year of Living Biblically). The latest (although not necessarily published later than the others) to drive me over the edge is supposedly about reading passionately (italics are mine) for a year from a pre-determined list. (So Many Books, So Little Time) The author of this self-flagulating piece wants us to believe how arduous it was to figure out what to read, and how this almost paralyzed her in her attempts, how at the end of the year, she still hadn't read all of the books on her list (she only wanted to read one book a week), but had substituted others along the way. Frankly, I'm getting really tired of all of this year of this, year of that, blah, blah, blah. I wanted to yell at all of them...get a grip, get a life. And for goodness sake...if you're that obsessive, seek help. The only one in the bunch that was worth anything.....and it was so good I almost hesitate to mention it here in the same breath (it deserves its own review)....was Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking, winner of the National Book Award. Ms. Didion didn't set out to spend a year mourning her husband after his sudden death, nor did she set out to have an adventure to write about so she could write a book, or collect a big advance from her publisher. This one is about real life and what happened during that year. It wasn't a phony, ponied up premise to sell a was real life, with real feelings portrayed in an exquisite openess. If you missed it when it came out, be sure to reach for it, particularly if you're tempted to try some of these other 'look at my wonderful/questing/awful/fun/lousy year' books on the shelves. Save your year for the real thing.


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