Monday, September 3, 2012

Hi!  I'm Cathy Stodel and I live in the Federal Hill South Neighborhood of Baltmore.  Some might say that I'm a woman who might have a little too much time on her hands.  I read a lot of books and I want to write about them and discuss them with others.  I've asked Andrew Stonebarger, the owner of The Book Escape about using his shop's website to publish a blog about books and he said yes!   I am so happy to have this opportunity.

This summer I read Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi;  Crow Lake by Mary Lawson; and Annie Dunne, A Long Long Way, The Secret Scripture, and On Canaan's Side, all by Sebastian Barry.  Sebastian Barry is an Irish author and since I seemed to be on a bit of an Irish kick, I sought out The City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (no relation that I'm aware of).  I read The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and The Soujourn by Andrew Krivak, which took place in Austria-Hungary.   On the non-fiction end of things, I read Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War by Madeleine Albright.  It was a nice experience reading The Sojourn and then Prague Winter - fiction and non fiction about the same part of the world and effects of wars and politics on the people who lived in that area.    To me, it was the intellectual equivalent of selecting the perfect wine for my dinner.

I read Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal by Jeannette Winterson and liked it so much that I read her other book Oranges are not the Only Fruit, The Man Who Changed the Way We Eat by Thomas McNamee, and Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives by Robert Draper.   Last week I read The Letter Q edited by Sarah Moon and Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison.  I liked them all and would recommend each of them.

If I were to recommend one of these books in particular or select one that I'd like to sit down and have a discussion about, it would be Madeleine Albright's book.  Prague Winter:  A Personal Story of Remembrance and War is as fascinating as Ms. Albrightis.  I went with my friend to the Pratt Library to see her discuss her book with Stanford Ungar, the president of Goucher College.  They knew each other back in the day, which was a nice connection to Baltimore.    She is a great writer and storyteller.  She made me feel proud that she's a woman and that she's an American.  I know, I know, those facts do not reflect on me, but I love knowing that such an intelligent and articulate woman represented our country and my gender so well for eight years and her whole life respectively.    Maybe I could feel proud that I voted for Bill Clinton twice?  Anyway, Prague Winter is a long and dense book with lots of historical and current figures, anecdotes and wisdom.   When I started the book I got a little nervous thinking that I needed to remember this large cast of characters in detail.  But once I relaxed and just focused on her voice, I had a great time with this smart book.

I belong to a book group tht meets monthly.  We used to read only classics with an exception to that rule only every once in awhile.  Now we aren't that rigid, although I do miss the classics sometimes.  I say that I miss them, but now we're supposed to read Middlemarch for September and when I think of it, my shoulders cave in a little.  In body language I guess that would indicate fear or sadness.  I'll let you know how that reading goes.

When I stopped off at The Book Escape this morning, I picked up Gillian Flynn's new book Gone Girl.  I'll let you know what I think about it in next week's blog.  It's a thriller.  I haven't read a whodunit in a very long time and am looking forward to it.  Maybe you can read it too and make some comments?  

Thanks and I'll talk to you next week. 



  1. So glad to learn you're book-blogging! I noticed you mention Kevin Barry's "City of Bohane". Wasn't clear if you'd found it -- I just finished it about two weeks ago. Brilliant! The language is absolutely Joycean, and the setting and story are as dark and captivating as anything I've read of late. The year is 2050, and the city is a Western Ireland anthill of warring gangs. Totally recommended!

    1. I loved City of Bohane Jeff! That is a hard, hard life that they're going to live in 2050, isn't it? I'm embarrassed to tell you that I can't say that I found it "absolutely Joycean" as the only thing I've read by James Joyce is The Dead, which was part of The Dubliners. You might be saying to yourself, "sweet baby Jesus" what's wrong with that woman, but I assure you that I'm working up to Joyce. Ulysses is sitting on my shelf. I'll let you know when I get there.