Thursday, January 14, 2010

motion of the ocean

"The Motion of the Ocean" by Janna Cawrse Esarey is a rollicking and wise memoir about her voyage across the Pacific with her new husband. I am totally entranced by the idea - a sort of endless vacation of beaches, fresh fish, discovering new paradises. I previously read "An Embarrassment of Mangoes" by Ann Vanderhoff about the cruising lifestyle in the Caribbean so some of it was familiar to me. Esarey has a very funny voice. I was laughing at her story of women learning to pee standing up. She's also honest about the way the 400th day on a white sandy beach with waving palms can feel boring and how it's hard to make conversation with your spouse when there's nothing new to say.

I am in awe of her bravery to set sail - I am such a nervous nelly in comparison. I love the idea of travelling around the world, but I'm not willing to take on the anxiety and discomfort. Maybe when I was younger and not a mother, I had more spirit. But nowadays - my son pooping on me and putting screws in his mouth and trying to get a full night of sleep - that is enough adventure.

"Pyongyang" by Guy Delisle is a graphic novel about his 2 months in North Korea for a job. I found it a riveting peek into a creepy, closed society. It's like the whole country is a cult. The brainwashing attempts are so desparate and lame - like dragging him to monuments to the Eternal President. They have highways with no exits and a grand subway system with only two stops. There's no electricity or fresh fruit in his hotel unless a foreign delegation is in town. Every room has photos of Kim Jong-Il and his father and nothing else is allowed to be hung on those walls. The kids sing songs about how they're the happiest kids in the world. The guides take him to a "museum" filled with tributes to how genius and awesome Kim Jong-Il is. How can anyone fall for this crap? But they act like they do - because neighbors turn in neighbors and everyone knows about the reeducation camps. What an unbearably sad life those people live. I might read some more books about North Korea - and I'm definitely reading more books by Delisle.

Onto another graphic memoir about a totalitarian society - "The Wall" is a kids book about growing up in Communist Prague. Neat artwork but not really a detailed story.

I have to say, I'm really enjoying the graphic memoir these days. I'm adding more and more to my library list. They're fun to read and offer a fresh perspective.

"That Old Cape Magic" by Richard Russo is about a middle-aged professor with a failing marriage who is haunted by evil old bat of a mother, the kind of cold person who doesn't value anyone without a graduate degree. His daughter is getting married and everyone's stressing over their issues.

The writing is wonderful. Russo can make you care for a character with your whole heart in just a page. I didn't have quite so much tolerance for his endless ruminations about his parents, his wife, his daugher's choice of a husband. Should he be a screenwriter or a professor? There wasn't really any drama and I didn't like being stuck in his mind, I suppose. His mind is as thick with worry and regret as my own.

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