January: New York City

 A Happy Marriage, by Rafael Yglesias

The “New York City” theme was partly inspired by my dad giving me not one, not two, but three books featuring New York for Christmas. But, the first book I read was one loaned to me earlier by a friend. This book is the semi-autobiographical telling of the author’s marriage and his wife’s battle with terminal illness. In accordance with the month’s theme the characters live in 1970s and present day Greenwich Village. Yglesias is a very gifted writer and beautifully conveys the love that he had for his wife. I think the only real criticism I had is that some parts of the book “go on” for a bit (in that you start getting tired of the main character and his hang-ups) and this tender subject could have benefited from being one of those slim novels that pack a punch. It was a great chance to be introduced to a talented New York author that I, shockingly, had never heard of, and even though by end of the book I didn’t really like the protagonist, Enrique as much as I had hoped- it was an honest and all too real portrayal.

Goodreads rating: ***

 The Fortress of Solitude, by Jonathan Lethem

I have been meaning to read this book for ages as it was strongly recommended by my roommate. She insisted it’s a must-read for Brooklynintes, and she was right. Particularly brilliant is the novel’s first half detailing the main character’s childhood growing up in Gowanus/ Boerum Hill on the cusp of its gentrification. Lethem has a gift for capturing character’s personalities and nuances, be it the delicate dance of getting “yolked” or the hollers of “Yo” throughout the neighborhood, or the eloquent ramblings of wayward boy genius, Arthur Lomb. Lethem’s portrait of gritty and edgy Brooklyn is fascinating and protagonist, Dylan Edbus is a lovely and sympathetic child. Sadly, when Dylan grows up he turns into a bit of a douche, and removed from Brooklyn the story starts to veer off into the bizarre, but ultimately The Fortress of Solitude is great American coming of age story, and worthy of New York City.

Goodreads rating: ****

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin

This is Colm Toibin’s Costa Prize winning tale about an Irish girl’s move to New York City. While the adjustment to living in Brooklyn is hard for Eilis (and Toibin does a nice job of naturally depicting her initial homesickness) she soon finds love in the arms of Tony, a lovable Italian plumber. I think I was expecting  this book to be more “literary” (yes, it looks like I’ve turned into a pretentious bitch) so I was a little surprised by the simple story that mostly centers around Tony and Eilis idilic budding relationship. But, I should say that overall I really enjoyed the story. It was like candy… but good, expertly made candy. Really expensive chocolates- Godiva, or what have you. Toibin is a simple yet gifted writer, so reading this book was truly and enjoyable breeze.

Goodreads rating: ***

Time and Again, by Jack Finney

I spookily spotted this in the $1 book rack at the Strand Bookstore, just a day after it was  recommended to me by my friend Donna, so I’m pretty sure this book has some sort of supernatural stalking powers- just saying.

One interesting fact, is that- being written over 40 years ago- the book itself provides a time machine to the 1970s complete with mild sexism (and even a few thrown off semi-racist comments). But this more or less is found in only the very beginning of the book. Once the story really gets going, the book proves it was actually a great recommendation for the theme of “New York”. Since our protagonist, Simon, is completely engrossed in the sights and sounds of 1882 New York, we are treated to painstaking detail of what it would be like to live in New York City at the time. Basically, a really fun read- as we all know, if you don’t have the ability to time travel, a book is the next best thing.

Goodreads rating: ***

Also read this month: Life as I Blow It, by Sarah Colona; The Starboard Sea, by Amber Dermot; and an unpublished manuscript, by M. Allen Cunningham.

Next Month’s theme: “In Translation” (where I try to amend that fact that I was an *English* major- thus read only works written in English and to this day have one of those English-centric prejudices). The first book up is The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery.

So if you want to, feel free to read along. Or if you have any questions, comments, criticisms, crys for help, etc… by all means drop me a line!

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