A “Don’t Read” and 2 “Do Reads”

Written By: sherridaley - • •

I really wanted only to write about books I love so that my friends could read them, too, but I must warn you about TOWNIE by Andre Dubus III.  You may have, like me, fallen in love with HOUSE OF SAND & FOG – the book and the movie – and you may be tempted to read his memoir.

Don’t.  Dubus grew up first a wimp — and then, trying pathetically to make himself into a Charles Atlas so nobody would kick sand in his face,became a muscle-head.  He tries to explain, psychologically, why he liked to beat the shit out of bad guys, but he only succeeded in convincing me he was a thick-headed mule with a very bad temper.

The story takes an eye-rolling turn for the worse when Dubus dreams that a Bible-thumping black preacher (his wife is black) predicts that he is going to die.  He wakes up sweating and terrified, and a copy of the New Testament just happens to be on his bedside table.  He flips open the Book to a random page in Matthew and reads, “Love one another.”  And he never has the urge to stomp someone’s head in again.

Isn’t that nice?

Throughout the book, I was more interested in his father than I was in him, and part of that is due to the fact that Dubus was mystified by him, too.  So upon finishing TOWNIE at the airport, I gave it to a stranger and promised myself that I would get Dubus’s FATHER’s work from the library and see where Dubus’s talent came from.  It’s certainly not clear from this memoir.


But DO read John Irving’s new book IN ONE PERSON about a surprisingly well-adjusted bisexual man.  He goes from wearing his girlfriend’s bra to bed to having sex with the town librarian, who is a sexy woman with a penis.  Almost everyone in the book has some sort of sexual dysfunction, if you consider gender fluidity a dysfunction.  It was a shock to read the cover story of the New York Times Magazine (August 12) about boys who like to wear dresses … the very day I finished Irving’s book.  Remember not to take much of anything Irving says too seriously.  He’s still the same old crazy John Irving.

And DO read A LADY CYCLIST’S GUIDE TO KASHGAR.It flips back & forth from the 1920s to current day, from the Middle East to London, but after while it comes together.  An 11-year-old girl gives birth and dies in the desert right on page 3, the rest of the book offers everything from missionaries, lesbians, and a homeless man fleeing from immigration officials. Somehow it all works.

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