Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Book Review: James Frey, Teri Hatcher, and other authors I have loved

I've always thought Teri Hatcher seemed like a nice person. I love her smile. I picked up her book in Wal-Mart and couldn't put it down, so I bought it. Now I'm going to study it every night along with my Book of Mormon and Old Testament and mark it up with a red pencil. It's a good book.

There are parts that seem embarrassingly revealing, her choices are not ones I would always make, but it's a warm and kind and fun book. Also extremely wise. She's a smart woman.

Here are a few things she says--to pique your interest:

(speaking of a cake baking debacle) "The thing is, sometimes you just have to wait. There isn't anything you can do to accomplish something faster than it actually can be done. For me, embracing that fact has been a hard-won battle, but ultimately a freeing recognition."

"All mothers exceed their limits. Sometimes I think divorced moms have more guilt and fear of failure, but even a married mom tends to give herself away to her kids and her husband and to put herself last. When you push too far, there are real consequences. . .You need to find a way to preserve yourself. You have to take care of yourself at the same time you take care of others. . .If you don't, you'll always be eating the burnt toast." (her book is based on the premise that moms always eat the burnt pieces of toast, STOP IT!)

I haven't finished it yet, maybe I'll share more later.

Here are a few other quotes that caught my eye at one time or another:

"How on earth do you love someone without either smothering them or constantly letting them down?" This is a quote from Oprah's magazine, from a book review of It Hit Me Like a Ton of Bricks: A Memoir of Mother and Daughter, by Catherine Lloyd Burns.

Despite the fact that Martha Beck works for Oprah, and Oprah bothers me endlessly these days with her pontificating, I enjoy her magazine and have saved several which are chalk full of wisdom.

Elizabeth Berg's Pull of the Moon is a treasure trove of insights and gentle humor. In it, her main character goes on a road trip by herself and meets a lot of people. One is an old woman that she visits with as they rock on her front porch: "So, what's it like, being eighty-six?"

"She laughed, then rocked her feet for a minute, thinking. I watched her feet, she was wearing blue keds and the think white socks that little girls wear. Finally, she said, 'Well, it's painfu, your joints hollering about something all the time. . .'" and later in the same conversation, the old woman says, ". . .but the meat of the thing was this: you accept change in your life or you might as well be dead."

I loved James Frey's book "A Million Little Pieces." I'm not bothered in the least by all the hoopla about whether he was in jail for three months or three days. The book stands alone, whether it's truth or fiction. I wouldn't recommend it to just anybody, it's gut wrenching and painful, the introspection is on a level I haven't found very often and speaks to my own personal Gethsemanes. He quotes a lot from the Tao: "Knowing other people is intelligence, knowing yourself is wisdom. Mastering other people is strength, mastering yourself is power."

Frey rejects God, the Higher Power of AA, and the 12 steps. I don't agree with him, but I applaud his courage in taking this politically incorrect stance. His descriptions of his inner battles, the things that people deal with while trying to get clear of meth, I don't think he could have made those up. (I found his descriptions helpful in realizing that my stepdaughter was dealing a meth addiction, he was right on there).

Cheiko Okazaki is one of my heroes. I have all her books and I love her kindness, her patience, her gentleness with herself and the rest of the world. In her book "Being Enough" she says, "He loves who are. He loves you unconditionally. He loves the whole you, all of you, not just the good parts or the disciplined parts or the parts that serve. He loves your history, even if your past has been sorrowful and painful, not jus tthe present of service and the future of righteousness that we all long for. He is with you. He wants you to feel Him with you, to trust Him enough to acknowledge His presence , not just in your moments of strength or joy or private meditation but also in your hours of pain or selfishness and times of despair and sel-loathing."

When I was a little girl, and living a life of extreme poverty and degradation, I watched my mother read. I had learned the alphabet and had the extreme good fortune of being taught to read phonetically. So, as a seven year old, who'd already been to four different schools, I picked up one of my mother's True Story magazines (does anybody remember those). I sounded out each word and by the end of that year, was reading at an adult level. Reading saved my life in so many ways and provided an escape from the life my mother chose.

Everywhere we moved, I would wander, barefoot and ragged, till I found the library. The librarians were always wonderful, I always returned my books. My life has been a love affair with the thoughts, words, and stories of others. I honor them, the mediocre (Danielle Steele was all I could read after my son's suicide), the depressing (Thomas Hardy), the outrageous (James Frey :)), the eloquent and soul elevating (Wilfried) and will be grateful until the day I die that my mother had that trash laying around.

6 comments:

C Jones said...

There's a book called The Glass Castle that you might like. It reminds me of the Frey book a little.

Here's the Amazon.com link:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743247531/102-1229950-1039326?v=glance&n=283155

a. nonny spouse said...

I love this post. You have a way with words, Annegb.

Have you read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold? It was the first book I read after my first year of teaching. It's harrowing and beautiful and cathartic and raw.

I had no idea Teri Hatcher had written anything.

Anonymous said...

I also highly recommend The Glass Castle, along with Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. All really engaging memoirs about women with tough childhoods who have amazing spirit.

annegb said...

I bought The Glass Castle today--I got a gift certificate for Mother's Day, which is dangerous because I always spend more than they give me.

Nonny, I didn't read that one, but I read Lucky. I glanced through The Lovely Bones, but I decided it was too harrowing for me, although I can go pretty harrowing most of the time. Alice Sebold is a painful writer, she cuts to the bone.

Teri Hatcher's book will make you smile. She's so ditzy, and funny, and warm and sometimes stupid, but the honesty just spoke to me. She seems like somebody who could be your neighbor.

I also have Don't Let's Go To the Dogs, didn't you just get furious with her parents? One part of the book that continues to intrigue me is how for her, Africa is home. I can't imagine liking to live there. But I kept thinking, "this is how Nevada, those old dirt towns, speak to me. I'm comfortable with them.

There are a lot of books like that, We Were the Mulvaneys, Ellen Foster, and Durable Goods remind me of these as well.

I love books.

redbarns said...

what about that book It hit me like a ton of bricks? I really liked that one. And I really very much liked teh African one by Alexandra Fuller.

annegb said...

I've ordered that book, thanks for the reference. I've become very intrigued by memoirs, they are almost always filled with dysfunction, which I find validating :).