Wow! This is a bit of a different take on my usual posts, but I’m so proud of myself that I’ve just got to toot my own horn here.
Guess what? I’ve been reading! Not only that, but I’ve finished not one, but two books! Granted, they’ve both been on deck since just after Christmas – but that doesn’t count. What DOES count is that I made time to read, finished two books and enjoyed them both. So I thought I’d do a mini-book review here. Just because.
First up – my at-home reading. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr. I mentioned this one a few weeks back, when personality types and behaviors started sounding a bit familiar. Once I Googled the book and read that the town of ‘Leechfield’ is actually the town where a good chunk of my extended family on the Spouse’s side are from, this made sense. I actually need to go back and reread now. Some of the families mentioned in the book could be clones of some people I know. Hmmm…
Anyhoo, Karr uses this book to give us a glimpse of her childhood – which really puts the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional – growing up in southeast Texas during the sixties. She manages to put a comic spin on even deep-seated family issues, while painting her family as living, breathing individuals. These are not caricatures. Even those Yankees who may read the book need to take my word for it – these are picture-perfect depictions of people I have met. No stereotypes here. Well, they sure have aspects of the stereotypical redneck Texan – but each person’s issues will strike a chord of familiarity within you, no matter what your upbringing.
I will say that the book became more and more uncomfortable for me to read towards the end. Not through any fault of the author, but her story and its direction brought out some experiences, memories and fears of my own. And that, to me, is what makes this book so memorable and transcending. Regardless of your background, issues or life story, Mary Karr puts us smack dab in the middle of her story – and makes us truly feel what her characters are going through. Empathy. The mark of a Really Good Author. Just my two cents on that one. Read it. Read it if only for the description of flight from Hurricane Carla across the Bridge. I’ve been on that bridge. In calm sunny weather. Scares the crap out of me every single time. And Mary Karr actually makes it funny.
Next up – my lunchtime-at-work reading. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. This is incredibly interesting stuff. Gladwell actually looks at data, events and statistics surrounding ‘good ol’ American success stories.’ As well as some stereotypes regarding cultural background and achievement. With incredibly interesting results. Turns out that the American Work Ethic of ‘hard work equals success’ isn’t absolute. In fact, if you look at many rags-to-riches stories, you see that hard work is only one part of the equation. Place, time, culture, events – they all add up to very specific opportunities for very specific people in very specific situations.
At first I was depressed. See, I definitely was NOT born in any certain situation with these kinds of opportunities – at least as far as I know. My attitude halfway through the book was basically ‘what’s the point of effort then?’ That’s my Type A pessimism kicking in. It was a Debbie-Downer-ish moment. Well, more than a moment. A few tens of moments. But I kept reading.
And at the end, Gladwell’s message isn’t that only a few individuals have certain exceptional opportunities – it’s that we need to pay more attention to the details of the journey and their impact on the end result. I actually feel inspired. Part of me wants to do a study on myself and my background to see if there are any trends for people like me.
Or maybe I’m just looking for the next bend in the road. I can’t see around it yet, but I’ll take this book as a message that it’s coming. And in that I have faith.
Like I said, I’m not a book reviewer. But what kind of dream job would that be? To get paid to read books and write about them? Count me in!! But that’s what I’ve been up to lately, y’all. Had to give myself a shout-out.
Now, if I could just decide which book on deck to pick up next…