My reading has been unsettled lately – kind of like the weather. Like spring’s wide swings from warm to cold and lots of wind, I’ve been jumping around a bit, and in one case, getting mixed up between books. Here’s what’s on my nightstand:
1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I’m reading this one with a group of 7th and 8th graders, and it’s been the highlight of my spring reading experience. It’s like I’ve dropped into a really interesting book club discussion where I’m a lot older than the other members, but they’ve been okay with that. Among other things, we’ve talked about the possibility of time travel, which was totally lost on me (and on them!), religion, and the nature of good and evil. We considered music and art and mathematics as forms of language, and wondered if George Lucas and Jimi Hendrix had languages of their own. Over fifty years after its publication, L’Engle’s novel still succeeds in asking readers big questions about the power of art and love and all kinds of complicated stuff that kids love to grapple with.
2. At the same time, I was reading a short book, published by McSweeneys, that is the transcript of a conversation between Judy Blume and Lena Dunham. I was an obsessive fan of Blume’s coming-of-age novels when I was young and even wrote a dramatic fan letter to her (yes, she wrote back – a real letter!) And although I’ve never seen Dunham’s popular TV show, Girls, I’ve read many interviews and think she’s kind of fascinating. As you would expect, their conversation is about reading, writing, friendship, and their very different experiences of being young women. The book is small (Peter Rabbit size) which contributes to the feeling you are holding this little secret conversation in your hands. An excerpt was published in the January issue of The Believer.
3. This one comes with an admission – I’m still reading (or more accurately, listening to) The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. It’s been months and I’m only half-way there. If I would give up on the CD, the book would be finished by now, but I don’t care anymore. If I listen to the final CD in September, that’s fine. The Goldfinch is more than a book now – it’s a performance experience and this magical journey I’m taking in my car, even if I’m driving to the grocery store. I’m completely captivated by the way David Pittu gives voice to the many characters. Sometimes I back the CD up just to hear him say something again. For a few weeks, I kept thinking “the book would be so much faster,” but then it occurred to me that the only reason I would switch over is to have it “done” so I’m staying the course. The highlight is when Pittu speaks as Hobie. It makes me feel like I’m in an old New York City antique shop – time travel perhaps?
4. This is where it gets confusing….at the same time I was reading about Theo Decker’s problems with his “stolen” painting, I also read Under the Egg, a new middle grade novel by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. The main character in Under the Egg is Theo (short for Theodora) who finds a Renaissance painting in her home. A bad idea. Every time Theodora said something about her painting, I wondered if it was still behind her bed in Las Vegas! I had a mixed response to Fitzerald’s book, but thinking maybe I should read it again when my head is not so full of the other Theo.
5. And, finally, I was reading a truly secret book – a novel I’m reviewing for School Library Journal. Luckily for me, the main character’s name is not Theo.
Time to get in my car and return to Theo Decker’s life and David Pittu’s vivid reading….I must need something from the grocery!