BOTM for March

I don't think I'm going to finish my current book, Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan in time to make it for March, so the Book of the Month winds up being a tie - The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and Eyes on the Prize by Juan Williams.

I admit at first I wasn't too keen on The Lovely Bones; although word of mouth kept saying otherwise, I had the book chalked up to a sappy, 5 People You Meet in Heaven kind of thing. But I was pleasantly surprised - the book wisely keeps the focus on the after-effects of Susie Salmon's murder on the family and killer, and it's treated with sensitivity and a believability that is at once haunting and ultimately affirming. In fact, I enjoyed the family episodes much more than Susie in her "Heaven." Every once in a while in the middle of a paragraph Sebold throws out a great line or two to hook you right back in the book. My only complaint would be an ending that felt a little too wrapped up (killer gets his just desserts, there's a marriage and everyone seems to be happy). A real winner nonetheless, and I look forward to seeing Sebold try to stretch herself on her next work.

  • Eyes on the Prize: The Civil Rights Movement 1954-1965 by Juan Williams - This book, the companion piece to the award-winning PBS documentary, opened my eyes to an entire era that I still feel woefully ignorant of. The primary reason for this book's greatness in my eyes is that, although read about many of the major and well-known players such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Thurgood Marshall, much of the book places greater emphasis on the unsung heroes of the Movement. From Charles Houston, who turned the Howard Law School into a lean fighting machine that began tearing down the walls of the early Jim Crow laws in the South to the Freedom Riders who risked their lives on the bus lines from Birmingham to Montgomery. Just a great picture of what was going on. Heartbreaking and uplifting to know that in our lifetimes this kind of strength and sense of justice lived and breathed.
  • Whores for Gloria by William T. Vollmann - This was my second book by Vollmann, a true "fever dream" of a war vet slumming through the seedy alleys of San Fransisco looking for his wife, Gloria, who may or may not only exist in his imagination. During Jimmy's travels, he comes into contact with many of the city's prostitutes, pimps, and degenerates, and Vollmann's strength is portraying these characters as they truly are, but at the same time giving an almost fable-like air so that everything comes across slightly dreamy. The characters are all treated with a sense of grace that serves to elevate them out of the filth of the street and into a parallel quest where they search for things they may never find, much Jimmy in his search to find Gloria, the Queen of the Whores.
  • Lynch on Lynch, edited by Chris Rodley - I'm fascinated by the work of David Lynch. It isn't that I find him hard to understand (except for ERASERHEAD, which is still completely mind-boggling); it's that I find that someone who is able to tap so perfectly into pieces of my fears and nightmares, and can express them so eloquently on screen has got to be a great interview if you can get him to open up. And Rodley does, over the course of years he gets Lynch to talk about every from his childhood to the stories behind each of his gloriously twisted little films. He talks about his horrible disappointment over what happened with DUNE, his initial fear of working with Dennis Hopper in BLUE VELVET (apparently he was afraid Hopper was too much like Frank Booth, his character in the film), and of course the town and characters he's most known for, TWIN PEAKS. It's fascinating for someone who's interested in a great filmmaker, but perhaps even more essential for someone who loves the true pursuit of that elusive thread called Art.
One of my favorite things in the world is finishing a book, and then taking a few hours to scroll through all the new books laying around and choosing what to read next. I have a business trip coming up beginning next Monday, so I have to choose a few picks to bring with me. After such a great book month, I can't wait to see what April brings.