Lifelines by Heidi Diehl

Last year I read a book about swimming and Berlin and hydrology and the nuances in the German language, and it was like it had been written just for me.

Lifelines by Heidi Diehl is about the German psyche (their collective grief and shame), Düsseldorf, and urban planning. Another book written just for me?

Lifelines is also about music and art, the 1970s, what is expressed and what is left unsaid, and how we fit into our environment. Continue reading

Dietland by Sarai Walker

I was too squeamish for bulimia and lacked the masochism needed for anorexia, so once I had cycled through every diet I could find, I went back to Waist Watchers.

The Beauty Myth meets Fight Club meets Fat is a Feminist Issue meets Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – that sums up Sarai Walker’s satirical novel, Dietland.

The novel focuses on Plum Kettle. Plum is in her twenties and works behind the scenes at a popular teen girls’ magazine, answering fan mail (which is generally about boys and body image). Plum is 300 pounds, and has spent a lifetime wishing she was ‘normal’.

In my real life I would have more friends, and dinner parties and overnight guests, but my life wasn’t real yet. Continue reading

The View From Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman

My introduction to Elinor Lipman was the humorous campus novel, My Latest Grievance. I read a few more of her books but they were fluffy and lacked the edge of Grievance. However, there was one more Lipman on my shelf – The View From Penthouse B – and I picked it up, needing some froth after a book I found traumatic. And I’m glad I did.

The View From Penthouse B is a farce. The story revolves around sisters Gwen and Margot. Gwen is unexpectedly widowed, and Margot invites her to join forces as roommates in Margot’s luxurious apartment. Margot has her own woes – divorced amid scandal (her ex, Charles, was a doctor who got caught in a terribly unsavoury malpractice situation) and then made poor by a Ponzi scheme, Margot is struggling to make ends meet.

Though we call ourselves roommates, we are definitely more than that, something in the order of wartime trenchmates. She refers to me fondly as her boarder – ironic of course, because no one confuses a boarding house with an apartment reached via an elevator button marked PH. In a sense, we live in both luxury and poverty, looking out over the Hudson while stretching the contents of tureens of stews and soups…   Continue reading

A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman

Think suburban mothers doing drugs and you might go to some sort of Valley of the Dolls scenario. But Ayelet Waldman’s story, A Really Good Day, is quite different.

The idea of becoming a ‘self-study psychedelic researcher’ felt ridiculous. I am a mother of four children. I am, to use my children’s gibe, “totally basic.” I wear yoga pants all day, I post photos of particularly indulgent desserts on Instagram.

Continue reading

A Good School by Richard Yates

If somehow, there came a time when I was *forced* to rank the novels of Richard Yates, I would probably place A Good School at the bottom of my list.

A Good School is one of Yates’s later novels and considered the most autobiographical. While his earlier novels focused on the anxieties of modern suburban life, A Good School examines the awkwardness and pain of teenage boy, William Grove.

William is trying desperately to fit into his new boarding school, Dorset Academy. Located in leafy Connecticut, Dorset appears to be a ‘good school’, however it lacks history, prestige and is on the brink of financial collapse –

Dorset Academy had a wide reputation for accepting boys who, for any number of reasons, no other school would touch. Continue reading

Ein wunderschöner Abend mit Jenny Erpenbeck and laughs with Meg Wolitzer

The best thing about the Sydney Writers Festival? That terrific international authors pop down to Melbourne, and are hosted by the Wheeler Centre, who put on an amazing program in May.

Last night I saw German author Jenny Erpenbeck and American author, Meg Wolitzer, talking about their latest books. Continue reading

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

Because I am in #campold, a dinner party conversation I had last weekend was about colonoscopies. More specifically, the person who brought it up was talking about their anxiety – they’ve never had a colonoscopy. Neither have I*, which is probably why I gleefully suggested they should read the hilarious chapter on colonoscopies in David Sedaris’s eighth collection of essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls. Continue reading

Vacuum in the Dark by Jen Beagin

Is there such thing as a literary poo joke…?

Jen Beagin’s Vacuum in the Dark opens with Mona, a twenty-six-year-old house cleaner, accidentally washing her hands with a poo, mistaking it for a ‘fancy hippie soap.’ She immediately refers to her imaginary friend, Terry Gross, for advice. Terry suggests breathing through her mouth and repeat rinsing.

“The shits are real, Terry,” Mona said. “They have heft. They engage all the senses.”
“Start keeping a record of some kind,” Terry suggested, as Mona finished vacuuming. “Indicate the time of day, the location, plus a brief description, and maybe include a drawing.” Continue reading