Two books! That's all I managed in January. My reading was as slow as the idiomatic molasses. I'd like to blame the first book on the roster as it was a bit of a slog for me, but I think my brain was also stuck in first gear. S'okay though. We all got through it, right?
Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens by Eddie Izzard. You might think that a memoir by an absurdist comedian-actor ("covered in bees!") who labels himself an "action transvestite" and who shares that the death of his mother when he was a small boy has been the prime mover behind many of his decisions would be a rich tapestry of emotions. You might think the author would delve deep to mine his motivations and examine his inner life. You might think that but, in this case, you'd be wrong.
For a memoir, Believe Me is strangely devoid of any emotional momentum. It's more of an accounting of how Eddie got from there to here and the decisions he made along the way, rather than an exploration. Turns out he's not much of a story teller when the subject is him. I plowed through because I thought there had to be a there there somewhere. But not so much. I can't even remember what the Jazz Chickens referenced, if you want to know the truth of the matter. At any rate, I shall continue to treasure his stand up and plan to discover his acting roles. But thanks for the memoirs, Mr Izzard, I'm full.
Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper. This book was a Christmas gift from Dave and further proof that this guy really gets me. Now, I'll tell you right now, this book is not for everyone, but it is very much for me – I enjoyed every phrase and every page. Kory Stamper is an editor at Merriam-Webster dictionary and, more than that, she is a fan girl of the deeply weird and wonderful English language and a gifted writer.
Stamper takes her readers on a tour of how words make it into the dictionary and how the definitions are written, from the inside of the publishing process. Sounds dry perhaps, but the author's wit and insight and ability to weave in culturally relevant observations add up to an absolutely fascinating read. And when she dives in to the evolving meaning of words themselves, my sprachgefühl (a borrowed-from-German word I learned from Stamper that means an intuitive sense for what is linguistically appropriate) listened intently, skittered around with delight, and occasionally stood right up and cheered. I learned a lot from this read, and I also gloried in it. Amazing that a dictionary editor - a person paid to stick to just the facts ma'am - has such a delightful writing voice. Word by Word is her first book; I hope it's the first of many.
On another note, Canada Reads is on again.
I don't know if I can do it this year. I'm still mildly traumatized by the utter nonsense of last year... but I do love when people publicly get excited about books. I don't know. Here's the short list:
- The Boat People by Sharon Bala
- American War by Omar El Akkad
- Precious Cargo by Craig Davidson
- Forgiveness by Mark Sakamoto
- The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
(We all know I'm probably buying these books before the weekend is out, right?)