Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Ok, so my bookshelves are sagging and I had this idea (it being the end of 2011 and a good time to do away with the old) that I'd go through my books and find some I could donate to the local library. (They sell them at their little shop.) The problem is that I picked up this book--one I had read (according to my note on the front cover) with my bookclub in August 2009--and started reading it again. Instead of sorting books, I reread the whole thing.
Not only did I stall out on the sorting project, I think I may keep this slim volume. It's a debut novel by a good writer, about a 53-year-old failed-poet-turned-translator who made hash of his life through his 20s and 30s--married, had a kid, alienated them, spent a lot of time with Mr. Smirnoff. Now he's been invited to his daughter's wedding, and he's trying to get there, except that American Airlines has him stalled at Chicago's O'Hare, and he's going to miss the wedding (like he's missed his daughter's whole life). What starts out as an angry letter to AA turns into a meditation on his life, where things went wrong, and the difference between loving the *idea* of something and loving the thing itself. It's funny and heartbreaking all at once. He also plays with language, which I always like: "They say a watched pot never boils but baby it's tough not to watch when you're neck-deep in the pot.""I take an oversized amount of pride in the fact that I've never worn a wristwatch since my thirteenth birthday when my father gave me a Timex and I smashed it with a nine-iron to see how much licking would stop its ticking (not much, as it turned out)."
It's going back on my shelf. I need to find some books I don't like.

Friday, December 16, 2011


An engaging, inspiring read about the two teachers who started the KIPP Schools (Knowledge is Power Program) to help low-income, at-risk students graduate from high school. The two teachers Mathews describes, Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin, began their careers in the Teach For America program; they're doggedly persistent and passionate, but humble, openly admitting that they don't have all the answers and that they made plenty of mistakes along the way. The book isn't polemical but offers plenty of insights about education and what worked for these teachers and these kids.