Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Daruma and Books--March Read

Killing a lawn takes a long time. Lucky for me I had other things to keep me busy, like reading and complaining how long it takes to kill a lawn.

In March I read a couple books and kept my New Year's Resolution. Actually my New Year's Resolution was to read one book a month, so I'm ahead of the game--times three. Go me!


I started with Calvin Trillin's About Alice, which is a moving portrait about a man's love for his wife, written with humor and affection. Trillin has been a contributing writer to The New Yorker for, oh like 195 years, so he knows a plethora about writing, life and his dear wife Alice.

Here's the first line of the book:
"One condolence letter made me laugh."
What an opener--sad but funny! And his story delivered on both fronts--in spades. I'll be re-reading this book and discovering so many of his others for years to come.

Next I read Zen and the Art of Surfing by Greg Gutierrez. Call me crazy but oh, like 1,500 years ago, I don't think the monk, Daruma, had surfing in mind when he created Zen Buddhism. Although he should have. This collection of short stories treats those epiphany moments you have surfing, loving or just living. I'm not a surfer and this book did not make me want to learn how to surf instead it put me in the pipe of the wave and for the glorious moments of reading it I felt that I was a surfer already. That's good writing.

The last book I read this month was The Tin Horse by Janice Steinberg, a book I found at the Southern California Writer's Conference. The Tin Horse was inspired by a passage Steinberg read in the Raymond Chandler mystery, The Big Sleep:
"I shoved on back into the store, passed a partition and found a small dark woman reading a law book at a desk... She had the fine drawn face of an intelligent Jewess."

The Tin Horse fleshes out this Jewish woman by explaining how she came to be in Los Angeles circa 1941. This book is a rich, multi-generational character study about Boyle Heights, an Angeleno immigrant family and the tumultuous Jewish history of the 20th century. The writer has included Chandler's Phillip Marlowe--complete with tough guy talk, steaks and scotch--as well as a riveting mystery. The chapters about working in the film industry reveal that people have been trying to make it in this crazy place called Hollywood for, oh like a zillion years.

Which is still a shorter period of time than it takes to kill my lawn.

Wishing you all happy reading!