Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Recently-Acquired Books

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature of The Broke and the Bookish

This week's theme: Last Ten Books that came into my possession

Some of these are from my Christmas haul because I was incapacitated for so long, and had little chance to be gathering more books!

1. The Ecstasy of Influence: nonfictions, by Jonathan Lethem
I'm working through this one right now.

2. Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: 
The Story of the Animals and Plants That 
Time Has Left Behind, by Richard Fortey

3. The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic 
Generation Discovered the Beauty and 
Terror of Science, by Richard Holmes
I read this one some years ago, but it's truly one of the most beautiful things I've ever regretted not owning. And now I own it :)

4. Vader's Little Princess, by Jeffrey Brown

5. Black Diamonds: The Rise and Fall of an English Dynasty, by Catherine Bailey

I received this as an advance copy a few months ago. It's not exactly up my alley, but my mom read it and enjoyed it enough. It's on my eventual TBR pile.

6. Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
I got this used from a senior community library when we were visiting family near Boca over the winter. It's on the short list!

7. Reagan: The Life, by H.W. Brands
Also not really up my alley, but I never could resist a barrel of laughs.

8. Intimacy Idiot, by Isaac Oliver

9. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
From the lending library at work.  One of those things that I never got around to reading.

10. Little Beasts: a novel, by Matthew McGevna
An advance copy that I'm going to try to read this weekend. 


Review: Horoscopes for the Dead, poems by Billy Collins

Horoscopes for the Dead,
by Billy Collins
Random House, 2011  |  103pp
I tend to prefer my poetry...loud. Shouting, ringing, echoing - that kind of thing. It's why I love Poe's assonance and onomatopoeia. It's why I love Hamby's proper nouns with their capitalization and weight. Most other poetry pales in comparison. Modern poetry, for the most part, can be too simple for my taste, like the sickly simpering cousin to the greats. And while for me Billy Collins tends to fall into that latter category most of the time, this particular collection is not wholly without merit.

Published in 2011, Horoscopes for the Dead is a personal and deeply relatable collection dedicated to remembering persons and things lost to time. The first poem, "Grave," sets the tone and establishes for the reader a somewhat sardonic humor with recurrent images of cemeteries, empty chairs and mossy shade. Combined with hyperbole, this humor acts as a mechanism to both show love, and deflect pain.

While there is no thru-line, per say, the feeling of loss and longing is evident throughout the book. The titular poem - which opens the second part of the collection - is the most resounding in terms of feeling and relatability. The idea that we mark someone's presence even after they're gone, and that, in loss, we sometimes live in parallels of what-ifs - ghosts of possibilities, as it were - is a confessional token of humanity that its oft written about, but so rarely portrayed as honestly as Collins did here. It reminded me of a Facebook page that I follow - a memorial page for a relation of mine who passed away suddenly a couple of years ago. Gone but ever-immortalized online where we all wait for her next update, regardless of her absence.

That being said, the collection falls short of great in my humble opinion. The deviances into Florida are offensive to me simply because of my feelings about Florida, but are otherwise digestible. But there are some pieces (i.e. "Table Talk," "Lakeside," and "Returning the Pencil to Its Tray") that didn't seem to fit - they're clunky and awkward and resemble poems in as much as they are structured like one, but otherwise have no internal rhythm, neither buoyancy nor gravity, and which simply do not mix well with the others, but which the author deemed appropriate for this collection despite every instinct that I personally would have otherwise. Come for the poems about death and loss, but don't get tricked into staying for the less worthy off-topic meanderings of the modern poet.


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Hyped Books I've Never Read

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature of The Broke and the Bookish

This week's theme: Top 10 hyped books I've never read

The books on this list fall into thee categories: Things I missed out on as a kid, Pop-fiction I to-this-day have not considered picking up, and Regrettable adult oversight.  You'll understand momentarily.

- Things I missed out on as a kid:

1. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
I owned all of them at one point...and then I didn't. Having now, as an adult, read The Hobbit these are definitely something that pre-teen Lauren would have enjoyed. So....eventually? I've also never seen the films please do not hit me. I own them now so I'm thinking marathon? soon? yes? 

2. Wuthering Heights
To be fair to me...I tried. I did try. I got three pages in and gave up, but I tried. As an avid reader of Charlotte Brontë, I thought that would give me an in, but not so much. But isn't this cover great? I think I love it because the lightning looks like it's about to hit Heathcliff and Cathy and put us all out of our miseries. 

- Popular fiction with which I have not bothered (for the most part, these are books about which I have yet to hear a single word that would make me want to read them. Maybe in another ten years there's a chance that I'll pick a few of them up, having given them time to marinate in the general consciousness. But until then, no thank you):

3. The Help

4. The Kite Runner

5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

6. The Fault in Our Stars

7. The Hunger Games trilogy

8. The Book Thief

9. Outlander series

- Regrettable Adult Oversight:

I know I know please don't hit me. The publisher sent me an advance copy of this book way back when, and I wasn't home when it got delivered, so the UPS guy left it with one of my neighbors. Except they claimed that they didn't get it and shooed me out of their doorway. So....no Bossypants for me. Eventually. I'll get there. 

Review: Jerry Orbach, Prince of the City - His Way from The Fantasticks to Law & Order, by John Anthony Gilvey

Jerry Orbach, Prince of the City:
His Way from The Fantastics to Law & Order

by John Anthony Gilvey
Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, 2011
157 pp.
I generally try to avoid biographies/ memoirs/ autobiographies as a rule - out of disinterest and a general distaste for the style. I haven't made an exception in a while, which is probably how I wound up with four of them on my Summer TBR pile this year. The two I've already covered (Oliver and Baker), one that I'm having a hell of a time getting through, and a Jerry Orbach biography that I couldn't refuse.

Everyone knows Jerry Orbach from something or another - this is ironic given what it took to get him to that height in the public's conscious. John Gilvey, in his well-researchecd biography, uses stories from Jerry's kids, wives, friends and mother, piecing together a comprehensive and full picture of Jerry's life and career for those who didn't have the good fortune to know him. 

After being born in NY, Jerry's family moved him to Wisconsin. He eventually made it back again, and became the picture of an ideal New Yorker. He led and lived a full and vibrant life surrounded by people who loved him - actors, directors, the mafia - you name it - with highs and lows like any other performer. The lows are a revelation for someone like me who only knew of him in the last fifteen years of his career, when he was an unbridled success. The harder times were certainly character-building for him and his family, and the later years in retrospect seem like karmic relief for what he'd endured up until then. He was a trailblazer of sorts who helped pave the way for actors who today so easily shift between theatre, television and film industries. Gilvey does not shy away from the darker patches in Jerry's life, nor does he judge anyone for them. It's simply another piece of Jerry's character. But for someone like me, those moments suddenly make that ideal New Yorker much more human. 

My one criticism of the book is that it reads like a biography. There's very little bravado to it, there's not a lot of creative structure. And given the subject matter, that would have made it more engaging. As it is, I can enjoy it because of my appreciation for Jerry. But for someone who only has a mild interest in his life, there's not a lot to draw the reader in.