Stuff & Nonsense: memoir


Showing posts with label memoir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label memoir. Show all posts

17 July 2016

Cheer Up Love


First read about Susan Calman's Cheer Up Love in Sarah Millican's no bullshit women's magazine Standard Issue (if you're not reading it, you should be) and it sounded brilliant. As there was no way I was going to wait for the American edition to come out in October (love of god, international publishing complex, get it together), I clicked over to Book Depository and had a copy in my hot little hands the following week. Hooray.

And Cheer Up Love was so very good. Uplifting. Poignant. Bittersweet. Heartwarming. Silly. Serious. So comfortingly honest about anxiety and depression. Also, there's bingo and Marlene Dietrich. If you're not familiar with Calman, she's an ex-corporate lawyer turned comedian who's appeared on a bunch of BBC Radio and Channel 4 shows. I know her best from bootleg episodes of British comedy quiz shows like 8 Out of 10 Cats, QI, and Would I Lie to You? where she adds a certain je ne sais quoi. 41, petite, Glaswegian, funny as hell, with excellent dress sense (Marlene Dietrich, natch) and two disinterested cats ... she's the kind of woman I'd love to be friends with. Yes, so maybe I have a little crush? It's perfectly understandable if you read the book.

Cheer Up Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate by Susan Calman (Two Roads, 2016))

02 February 2014

A Bag of Marbles


Maurice and Joseph's father fled Russia as a boy, ultimately ending up Paris were he was quickly assimilated and became a true Frenchman. He married a girl from similar circumstances and, in time, their family grew and prospered ... but now it's 1941 and the Nazis occupy Paris. There are yellow stars on school jackets and placards in Jewish shopfronts and, yes, it's time to run. The family splits up -- Maurice and Jo will go ahead to join their brothers in Vichy France, the southern free zone, while their parents follow along behind.

Armed with 5,000₣ and their wits, the boys are sent on the dangerous journey. They occasionally make bad choices, but find help in unexpected places from all sorts of people. The kindness of strangers adds a little sweetness to this book, making it much less depressing than it could have been. However, each encounter seems too brief and it's sometimes hard to feel the emotional intensity which much surely have charged much of their travels. Indeed, it frequently feels in some places as if I am reading the summation of an event rather than actually in it at that moment in time. I never feel I am with the boys.

I don't know if this is a fault in translation or simply due to the slimness of the work as the original text is 200-ish pages long. I don't think Bailly's watercolor illustrations are at fault. They're very detailed and expressive, clearly imparting the emotions experienced in any given scene. I just didn't feel them.


A Bag of Marbles: The Graphic Novel by Joseph Joffo & Vincent Bailly (Graphic Universe, 2013)



28 September 2011

Day 23: Book You Tell People You’ve Read, But Haven’t (Or Haven’t Actually Finished)


It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinarymiserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.

People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests; bullying school masters; the English and the terrible things they did to us for eight hundred long years. 

Above all -- we were wet.

I never actually finished reading Frank McCourt's Angela’s Ashes even though I told a few people I worked with that I had. I didn’t like Angela’s Ashes all that much – just wasn’t my cup of tea – but I told my coworkers I had read it and found it good, because I didn’t want to hear them go on and on about how Angela’s Ashes was The Best Book Ever Written and how Everyone Loves It and how I must be reading it wrong if I didn’t like it. Easier to lie than to face their censure!

22 September 2010

Put On Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom by Queen Latifah


I admit I have a serious crush on Queen Latifah. Such beautiful, savvy woman who carries herself with such grace, style, and evident self-worth -- she's one of the few celebrities I would actually like to meet. Obviously, I was please to borrow her latest book, Put On Your Crown, from my library system.

In Put On Your Crown, Latifah uses significant moments from her life -- her brother's sudden death, going bankrupt, body issues, etc -- as lessons her readers can use to become strong, confident women. Latifah is never preachy, but maintains an honest, sisterly tone as if she were simply making conversation with friends.

I think, if you're looking for a book that will "fix" you, then Put On Your Crown will be a bit of a disappointment as Latifah never explicitly says "this is how you become a Queen." But, if you want to read about how a strong woman coped with hardship and staid true to herself, then this book will probably appeal.

Quotes I found particularly inspiring (ymmv):

The point is to be healthy, feel good in your own skin, and play up your best assets. Whether you’re short or tall, thick or thin, the beauty comes from how you carry yourself, how you care for your appearance, and the inner glow that confidence brings.

We may not have all been born looking like supermodels, but so what? We become beautiful when we do things to take care of ourselves, inside and out. It's not just how how I look, it's about my health and doing things that will let me live longer by keeping down my blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol.

Put On Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom by Queen Latifah & Samantha Marshall (Grand Central Publishing, 2010)

30 January 2010

Nothing: Something to Believe In by Nica Lalli


I have belief, I just don't have religion.

Nothing is not about making the case against religion from a scientific or logical standpoint -- if you are looking for that type of argument, you would do better reading Richard Dawkins. Instead, Nothing is an extremely personal memoir of being an everyday garden-variety nonbeliever in contemporary America -- we read about Lalli's early encounters with institutionalized religion, her struggles to define her nonbelief, and her efforts to defend herself from her rabidly Christian in-laws.

Nothing is a fast and easy read with a nice combination of humorous and cringe-worthy moments, but it's not very deep -- I ended up watching a whole slew of CFI Ontario YouTube videos to get a better grasp of Lalli's beliefs.

Nothing: Something to Believe In by Nica Lalli (Prometheus Books, 2007)