by Jess

It’s been a busy week in books.  The local library did me proud this time.  I tore through Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.  I also snagged some books on tape (cassette tape, that is) they were giving away that I’ve been listening to in the car: Ernest Gaines’ A Lesson Before Dying and Nicholas Evans’ The Horse Whisperer.

I enjoyed Life of Pi very much, though I don’t think it’s brilliant and its argument for belief in God is tepid at best, but I liked it.  Sadly, Dan Schneider, whose opinion I value, absolutely detests it.  To balance out all that rancor, here’s a Q&A with Martel from readers at The Guardian (although Martel gets rather cranky with a reader over the plagiarism scandal).

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the best book I’ve read in a while.  The Brothers Judd call it one of America’s most underrated great books.  It’s a fantastic story and well written to boot. The characters are beautifully drawn, the narrator is a first-person POV done right, and it’s funny and heart-breaking and inspiring and makes you want to be more of a member of humanity than you’ve been before.  I highly recommend it. I’m going to check out the film and try to keep from killing it by playing the comparison game–but come on, it’s Jack Nicholson, so I’m sure it’s great.

A Lesson Before Dying, is, of course, simply heart-breaking.  It had my jaw dropping and my eyes welling with tears while I was driving down the road.   Which is totally safe for driving.  Anyway, it’s concerned with race in America and justice and mortality and dignity, and its central question is this: Knowing we’re going to die, how should we live?  It strikes me as the type of book that gets assigned in high school English classes, only high schoolers never appreciate important literature like this.  Better they read it when they’re aged and mature like me–or like a fine wine, which is also like me.

The Horse Whisperer is the only one I’ve not yet finished.  This is how you can tell that I’m loving it: the baby’s in bed, and I’m contemplating slipping out to the car to see what’s going to happen next.  It’s a bit of a departure for me, I suppose, but let’s be honest, I’m a sucker for a good cowboy story.  Unrelatedly, in searching for reviews, I found this bizarre article about how Nicholas Evans almost killed his family with poisonous mushrooms and now they’re all surviving on dialysis and waiting for kidney transplants.  So…that happened.

Thanks for tuning in.