This short novel by the great British novelist David Lodge is actually an adaptation by Lodge of a play of the same title. It reads almost like an update of Allbee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The issues here, however, are fame and the obsessive celebrity culture of our time. The dialogue is quick, sharp, and witty, as one would expect from Lodge, and about half-way through I was able to forget that it was adapted from the stage. By the end, I was hooked. I won’t spoil the ending, but I did see it coming about ten pages from its reveal.
David Lodge, Home Truths: A Novella. London: Secker and Warburg, 1999. Available in the US as a Penguin, 978-0140291803, $12, 128 pp.
This novel, published in 1998, is an insightful and insider look at the life of Jewish-Americans in the Catskills in the 1970s. Lots of inside jokes here, so if you were a bungalow kid or went to the Concord in the 1970s, this book is for you. If not, much of it will not connect for you. Nevertheless, it is a very enjoyable read by the director of the writing program at the University of Michigan. Pollack’s other work, including a very well-received volume of short stories, also treats the “Jewish-American” theme, but I think this novel does a splendid job of conveying the warmth, the hope, and the fun of “the mountains” in the 1970s. The story of Lucy Applebaum trying to save her family’s Catskill hotel, the Garden of Eden, the novel includes some nice twists and turns, enough to conclude with a somewhat surprise ending.
Eileen Pollack, Paradise, New York. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998. 251pp. 978-1566397896. 23.95.
Joshua Foer began this non-fiction study of memory with a fascination with how technology is supplanting our abilities and need for memory. The book ends with him winning the World Memory Championship–an unlikely ending indeed. Foer writes with an ease and comfortable voice that makes each page turn almost by itself. His historical material on memory, dating to the ancient world and the Middle Ages, is accurate and insightful (though a bit over simplistic for a scholarly reader). He has fun with memory, and we can remember (ironic?) how we also used mnemonic devices and other tricks in school to remember. The tricks (and he admits as do the “experts” that they are tricks that anyone can learn) he uses made me think of how Mrs. Gitterman, my second grade teacher, taught me to spell “friend.” I used to mix up the i and e; “you never fry your friend.” To this day, that runs through my mind when I have to spell that word.
Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. New York: Viking, 2011. 978-1594202292. $26.95.