First the birthday post: It was like getting an invitation from the most popular girl in the fifth grade, only it was Philip Roth. So I went to his birthday (wonderful) party. I had promised to wear my Indian clothes, so I did. My daughter had given me a resplendent outfit bought during her recent trip to New Delhi. Asked to speak, I toasted Philip and gave him a nickname -- stating positively that I am NOT a sacred person, and could only give a secular Ojibwe nickname. He was 80 years old that day and surrounded by thrilled, loving people, including the very great Edna O'Brien.
Her latest collection of stories, Saints and Sinners, has within it a story that I reread every few months. That story is titled Old Wounds.
The worse the news gets regarding publishing, the better the books are -- I don't get it. You'd think writers would be fleeing the profession. Instead, I've had an avalanche of tremendous new nonfiction: Katherine Boo's magnificent Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Gretel Ehrlich's harrowing account of the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami, Facing the Wave, A Journey in the Wake or the Tsunami, and classic Tom King, The Inconvenient Indian. Biting, mordant, enlightening -- yet somehow addictive reading. Tom has taken on a difficult subject: us. He's made it the kind of book you reach for when, you know, you want a good book. Also there is Westhope, Life as a Former Farm Boy, by Dean Hulse. He's from North Dakota and he feels the same way I do about industrialized farming. And now I'm reading The Boy Kings of Texas by Domingo Martinez and trying not to laugh and cry at the same time because it makes it hard to eat chocolate.
Wait, I've got to go. There's so much light out. Daylight! More time to read. The Absolutist, by John Boyne. I have two other books to tell you about but they aren't published yet. Watch for The Son by outrageously talented Phillip Meyer and Children of the Days by scorchingly brilliant Eduardo Galeano. More about these two books -- to come.