Revolutionary Road

I finally re-read some Richard Yates after years away. Frank and April Wheeler, in their suburban hell, grinning and leering at each other as something above their neighbors, planning to escape to Europe with the 2 kids so Frank could find himself, then pregnancy rears its head again (“You’ve been pregnant 3 times and wanted to abort 2 of them!”), foiling the European plans. Frank is happy about canceling Europe, just as he’s moving up the chain in the Knox Business Machine world (where his dad worked, as a lifer, and whose name Frank didn’t drop while interviewing). Tedium in the cubicles, Frank pretending to work all those years, and getting more done in an afternoon than he has in several months after April says he’s been slaving away. Shep and Milly Campbell, the other suburban couple who participate in the mockery; Shep in love with April, consummated illicitly on the backseat of the car the night when Frank drives Milly home after Shep’s car is blocked in.
It’s Mad Men writ large in literary form, the housewife condemned to psychoanalysis, the cheating husband, the commute into NYC from Connecticut, the triple martini lunches and buxom receptionists. Yates the literary master, each sentence leaving you drooling for more.

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Still Life

It had a promising start- the murder victim ID’d in the opening sentence. Then, in poured the adjectives, describing everyone’s clothes and personality and accents in painstaking, overwhelming detail. It became something shy of beach reading, lost some of its intellectual shimmer. In the end, seems like just the kind of book that would be recommended by a librarian– easy to read, wide appeal. Of course, none of those books ever jibe well with me.
The quick & dirty on plot: a Montreal inspector is summoned to Three Pines, Quebec, to investigate the death of elderly Jane Neal. She’s just had a painting accepted by the local art exhibition, and makes the unheard-of invitation for her friends to enter her house, beyond the kitchen door. But then, death. Turns out she’s spent years drawing over the walls of the rest of the house. The key to the mystery is in the painting, and the face that is blotted out and redrawn. Fair Day. Who wasn’t in the painting? Timmer’s son Ben, who inherited all that cash.
Blah blah blah, skip it.

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The Apprentice

Jacques Pepin’s charmed cooking life, in written form, poorly edited. As in, typos sprinkled throughout the pages. My inner editor wouldn’t let that go. Besides that, a sweet story of his upbringing in the kitchen, from apprenticing out at age 13, through many French kitchens, Parisian kitchens, and escaping to the US for some adventure and finding culinary freedom. His protests about his friend Craig’s gayness seemed a bit over the top– why even mention it? Why create that distance for himself?
Test kitchens at Howard Johnsons, reading Julia Child’s manuscript, the car accident that kept him from the kitchen and forced him into private instruction, KQED launching him on his TV career… quick mouthful to digest and move on from.

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Maximum City

A terribly boring book about India, I’m afraid. Some parts are engaging, like the story of how this ex-pat comes home to India after 20 years, brings his family, gets settled in and learns how to deal with the country that says “No” instead of America. Once he veered off this storyline into the gangsters and bar girls and Indian history it got painfully boring to me. In desperate need of an editor, and generous portions of snipping. Do long chapters make one crazy? Yes, I say yes, I say yes.

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The Fattening of America

It started out as such a promising book, but I ended up disappointed by the shoddy overall impression; the mixup over how long the Iraq war had been going on, poor date editing, etc. Basic premise is that an obesity researcher applies economic models to the fat epidemic, we’re getting fat b/c food is cheaper (and healthy food is expensive while McDonalds is cheap) and we’re obligated to sit on our arses for 40 hours a week as part of our jobs, and drive everywhere. Goal is 10k steps per day, and most of us don’t reach half that.
Obesity drug named Alli being tested. Take another pill, forget the idea of eating better and exercising. And in today’s news, apparently we don’t need to drink those 8 glasses of water a day anymore.
Interesting idea about abolishing the price controls on corn, soybeans, in order to give other fruits/veggies a fighting chance, price-wise.

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