Tag Archives: “Manhattan Beach” (novel)

Book Clubs

“Book clubs are totally dope – like English class if you were allowed to read only books that you actually like and snack and sip while discussing them.”

Sam Maggs, The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks

…and by “sip” I assume Sam means kegstands with beer and wine straight from the bottle, and by “snack” she means stuffing your face with greasy food straight from the back of a pub.

Last night my book club talked about Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach. According to one of my fellow bookies who shall remain nameless but has a history of bibliophilic illness, “Manhattan Beach is a book about a beach. The beach is called Manhattan Beach. In between going to the beach and Anna’s home, people go diving and die. The end.”

Excellent summary.

Anyway, aside from plugging my own book club (did that come out right?), I thought I would use this opportunity to highlight the awesomenesss of book clubs. On top of meeting new people (hopefully), being in a book club means you have an excuse every month to rip it up while discussing pretentious subjects like art, literature, the art of literature, and literary art. Oh, and artistic literature, too.

I started this book club, Curling Was Full, in August 2009 and I’m proud to say we’re still going strong. Members have come and gone (there are only an Original Three left), but we always seem to have more requests for membership than we can handle. No surprise, then, that when Random House (before it was Penguin Random House) had a book club contest called Books Are Beautiful, we won!

Actually, we finished in second place (we all received a copy of Jowita Bydlowska‘s Drunk Mom) to We Don’t Bake Muffins, but I’m still convinced the contest was rigged. Something about screeching the judges and kissing a cod, I’m told.

Long of the short, though, if you’re not in a book club, start one. If you are in one, lament the fact that you’re not in Curling Was Full because, well, we’re full.

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A Little Fluff Never Hurt Nobody

Image result for fluff

Let’s be clear here. A little literary fluff, in moderation, is a good thing. Like drinking a case of beer (without anyone else’s oral assistance) while watching Hockey Night in Canada. Or reciting poetry to sharpen your addled brain. Or indulging in poutine after said night of debauchery and preparing for the poetics part the following morning (a person needs energy!).

That’s all chicken noodle fluff for the soul.

Whatever the hell it is that made it onto this post as the Pic of the Day is not a good thing, in moderation or even once in your life. REPEAT: If you see the above product while shopping, call in a Code Blue, throw yourself in a tent, and rub those rosary beads you carry with you for good luck. Oh, and pray the jar doesn’t consume you.

Last week, I finished this month’s book club novel, Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach, an impressively researched story about a young lady coming of age in New York City in the late 1930s and early 1940s,  freeing me up for a bit in between Curling Was Full choices. (Spoiler alert: Everyone dies at the end of Manhattan Beach when the Manhattan Project goes south and wipes out all the main characters, who’d taken refuge on a beach. Kind of a lame ending.)

Obviously I reached for the marshmallow fluff next, and just finished my latest Jack Reacher book (#20 in the series), Lee Child’s Make Me. I am now as content as a pig in…umm…a blanket?

Anyway, one of the reasons Mr. Child has my eternal love is that he doesn’t pretend to be anyone he’s not (or should I say JR doesn’t?). He has you hanging from page one, kicks some ass along the way in Nowhere, USA, then brings everything all together with a little bow on top. Nice.

But Lee Child’s real “piece of resistance” is the way he throws in facts, figures and stats. Unlike the Dan Brown Paradox, Mr. Child is not pretending to solve a centuries-old clue (except how some guys are always jacked up on testosterone maybe) when he discusses heavy subjects like suicide, the Gettysburg Address, and the dark web, all three of which he addresses in Make Me. More than that, he somehow makes it relevant to chasing bad guys around places like Mother’s Rest, Nebraska.

This got me to thinking, though. Trusting Goodreads as I do, I was curious what readers around the world considered the biggest pile of fluffy fluffiness. Well, I – and by extension you – now have the answer. Here’s the full list, but the Top 10 Most Popular Fluff Books goes like this, with Stephenie Meyer wearing the Empress’s New Clothes, Sophie Kinsella donning the queen’s crown, and Stephanie Perkins taking home the raciest title award.

1. Confessions of a Shopaholic, Sophie Kinsella

2. Twilight, Stephenie Meyer

3. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding

4. The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger

5. New Moon, Stephenie Meyer

6. Can You Keep a Secret?, Sophie Kinsella

7. One for the Money, Janet Evanovich

8. Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer

9. Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer

10. Anna and the French Kiss, Stephanie Perkins

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Quote of the Day

“We all pay for our advantages…There’s not a man in this world who hasn’t, and I include the priests. Every man has his secrets, his costs of doing business. It’s no different in my line. Don’t be fooled by the marble columns – the Romans had those, too, and they fed their prisoners to lions. There’s a good deal of brutality behind institutions like mine, leavened by an equal measure of hypocrisy.”

Jennifer Egan, Manhattan Beach

I’m currently reading Jennifer Egan’s follow-up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Visit from the Goon Squad, itself a fantastic read, and am enjoying it very much. I’ll save my final thoughts for a full post later on, but it’s a slow, meditative story, not unlike Blade Runner as a film, and a welcome change of pace in an otherwise crazy day of pressing deadlines and a near-ubiquitous now now now culture.

In the quote, the father-in-law, a banker, is talking to his son-in-law, a gangster, at a pivotal point of World War II (and the book – surprise, surprise). What’s great about timeless literature – or art for that matter – is that it never goes out of style. The above little talk from Arthur could be about so many different subjects, and yet the ultimate message rings true in each and every one of the cases, just as it does throughout history.

There was one more quote I was thinking of using from this book, a much shorter one, and I think I’ll include it here to end off this piece.

“It’s a pity we’re forced to make the choices that govern the whole of our lives when we’re so goddamn young.”

P.S. Today’s picture is of Jennifer Egan in full “battle dress” for the book.

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