Thursday, April 24, 2008

FRIDAYS: The Book You Have to Read

This is the first of what I optimistically hope will become Friday recommendations of books we love but might have forgotten over the years. I have asked several people to help me by also remembering a favorite book. Their blog sites are listed below. I also asked each of them to tag someone to recommend a book for next Friday. I'm worried great books of the recent past are sliding out of print and out of our consciousness. Not the first-tier classics we all can name, but the books that come next. Here's my choice.



Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

It's difficult to remember, thirty years on, New York in the seventies, The City was facing bankruptcy, the streets were dangerous, frequent strikes left unattended garbage for the rodents, buildings crumbled. Paula Fox's novel Desperate Characters perfectly captures that time along with the similarly disintegrating marriage of Sophie and Otto Bentwood. The story begins with an unexpected cat bite. "Because it's savage," Otto answers Sophie's puzzled, "why?" It was a cat she was trying to feed that bit her. This well-intentioned act, this McGuffin, sends the couple off on a weekend odyssey, where ominous events continue to haunt the childless couple. They find little solace in each other and there is no easy resolution at the end. The quiet desperation that suffuses their story is heart-breaking. The writing is haunting, lucid, and succinct.
Fox has also written two books about her life (Borrowed Finery and The Coldest Winter), a few other novels (The Widow's Children) and many children's books. But nothing is finer than this one for me.

Check out other recommendations here:

http://billcrider.blogspot.com/
http://bofexler.blogspot.com/
http://anthonyneilsmith.typepad.com/crimedog_one_the_internet/
http://sandrascoppettone.blogspot.com/
http://patrickshawnbagley.blogspot.com/
http://sandrablabber.blogspot.com/
http://josephinedamian.blogspot.com/
http://traviserwin.blogspot.com/
http://randomactsofunkindness.blogspot.com/


http://eudaemoniaforall.blogspot.com/


http://crimespace.ning.com/profile/BrianL

Gerald So, take it away.

19 comments:

Lisa said...

I just came over from Josephine Damian's and wow -- I just read this book last week based on a review I read on a site I subscribe to called "Head Butler". And I agree with you. It was a great read.

This is a great idea. New books are like new movie releases. There are dozens coming out every day, but most of them aren't that great so it's nice to mix it up and find some gems that were published more than a month ago :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Lisa-It was hard to pick just one but this one has stayed in my mind.

Travis Erwin said...

I'll get mine up shortly.

John McFetridge said...

This is a great idea, Patti, thanks for starting this.

My memories of New York's roubles in the 70's are directly tied to Barney Miller episodes. They had a great one about the city going bankrupt.

Now I've got a book to go find...

pattinase (abbott) said...

Great show, even if they never left the station.

Todd Mason said...

Well, in the first season, a fair amount of BARNEY MILLER action takes place at the Miller apartment...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I thought of that as soon as I clicked send. Did their budget get smaller or did they decide to make it purely workplace?

Josephine Damian said...

Patti: Too well do I remember those days when NYC nearly went bankrupt, when crime was wide-spread, and Times Square was nothing but hookers and peep shows.... I miss those days... the place just ain't the same since Guiliani "Disney-fied" Manhattan.

Now, the place lacks character.

Anyway, I heard about the book, and noted that Kelly Braffet must have some homage to it in JOSIE AND JACK because she uses the troubled-woman-comes-to-NYC-and-gets-animal- bite analogy. It's been on my TBR list for quite a while - looks like it's time I got around to it.

Todd Mason said...

I'm sure the budget didn't shrink...two sets (the outer office, Miller's private office) made for easier formula and probably did save some money and time.

*snubbed among book-reccers (one among many, I know)*

Fox I tend to think of, perhaps incorrectly, as primarily a YA writer, but I knew she'd written for not so Y As...

pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember when dumpsters held families of four even ten years later. It lacks character although coming from Detroit, too much character can be a bad thing.

Benjie said...

Patti, I enjoyed remembering one I'd forgotten. See it at http://benjobooks.blogspot.com/2008/04/fridays-forgotten-book-club-wild-night.html

Jennifer said...

Hi Patti,

Great idea! Travis Erwin tagged me and I have placed a recommendation on my blog, and plan to continue to do so every friday. http://jenniferarcher.blogspot.com/

Jennifer

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi There,

Just wanted to drop a line to let you know I didn't forget about this... I'll have a review up this weekend, my son's Communion is tomorrow so I'm too crunched for time to have it up tonight, but it'll definitely be up soon.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks guys. You're all aces.

Sherry said...

I put a link to this review at my Saturday Review of Books, a weekly round-up of bloggers' book reviews. YOu and your participants are invited to leave a link to your reviews there each Saturday.

I'll also try to participate by posting a "book you have to read" review next Friday.

http://www.semicolonblog.com

pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks. Sherry. Thanks for taking notice. I don't know how well this will fan out. We can only hope.

Ann said...

What a terrific idea! I will most definitely check out your recommendation. I have read a few of Paula Fox's children's books and have enjoyed them. And perhaps next Friday we'll come up with a "Book You Have to Read" on our blog, Books on the Nightstand.

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