Saturday, August 22, 2009

Laura Rider's Masterpiece by guest blogger Steven Head

Note: Somehow, Steve gets the timing right with each review. I arrived today with a plan for what would have been a pathetic post with more than the usual offering of blather. Luckily, I found an email and post from Steve, sparing you the difficulty of trying to read between my crooked lines. My weekend was spent with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at UW-Manitowoc... great audiences, fun shows, and it played well in Peoria. More later. Also, lots about Star Lake Saloon and Housekeeping Cottages by Wisconsin author, Sara Rath.

A few months ago, I opined the same book Steve writes about here. While I found the book a fresh offering from Hamilton, and even laughed out loud several times, Steve's personal email to me confesses that his disappointment in the book was stronger than he lets on in his post. However, the adult nature of the book made it tough for either of us to go into too much detail.

Books encourage dialogue; they help us become more of who we are. Book discussion, whether we agree or disagree with one another, allows us to get to know one another in a truer, more significant way than resume type conversation. I once belonged to a book group that forbid last names, or any type of personal conversation. If people did not like the book, they did not come to the meeting. I felt like I belonged to a Readers Anonymous Group. My current group...of six or so years...well, I adore them all, and look forward to our meetings. We seldom agree, but it is in the disagreement, that we have become closer.

Last week a local book group met here. They had recently read the same book we read, and had a totally different reaction. Aren't we happy that we are not all alike? Diversity...we need it in all things...books, music, work...and mainly in people. Just imagine your life if all your acquaintances were just like you. Maybe for you that would be a good thing, but for me...gosh, what a difficult life that would be.

So much for a short on to Steve.....Yippee!

Thanks Steve.

During my recent visit to Manitowoc our hostess of books directed me to Jane Hamilton and her latest, Laura Rider's Masterpiece. Now this is a book I would not normally be attracted to but Bev usually has a reason for her suggestions.

Let me start by saying my preferred genre is mystery or detective fiction. For the most part I have found female authors less satisfying than males. A good exception is Sue Grafton. Another is Laura Lippman's book of stories, Hardly Knew Her. So this book is not a mystery and a female author. Strikes one and two. Jane Hamilton, author of LRM, has been an Oprah book writer on more than one occassion. Since I consider myself a bit of an outlaw the thought of reading ANY Oprah books makes me itchy. Strike three.

So how is it I ended up reading this book? Bev said it was not at all like her other books and worth the read. Trusted endorsement trumps strikes.

LRM is one of those books that is not for Sunday School teachers and those offended by adult situations and language. The plot revolves around a husband and wife, Charlie and Laura, and a radio talk show hostess, Jenna. While three legs are a good thing for milk stools, in relationships they can be very unstable. If you doubt this take some time and read Sartre's play, No Exit.

As the title suggests, Laura has aspiration of being a writer. She is interested in the Romance genre but does not want to follow the conventions, even though she finds them useful in order to get started. To help her in this enterprise she decides a romance between Charlie and Jenna could provide raw material for her book. One of the wrinkles in this romance is Laura as silent partner in many of Charlie's e-mail messages to Jenna.

We all know where adult situations and romance will lead. And Jane takes us there with taste and wit. If you want to know how they got there, what happened once they had arrived, and whether any of the three lived happily ever after, then pick up this book.

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