Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren (2007)

My latest pick from the St. Denis bookshelf was A Lifetime of Secrets:  A PostSecret Book by Frank Warren (2007). This is the fourth published PostSecret book by Warren (there are now almost a dozen!), containing postcards with secrets (or "secrets") from contributors to his website / art project

The book is a nicely produced, full-color hardcover that gives the secrets a heft and purpose that is missing from the website. Like the site, the book includes a wide variety of sad, angry, funny, vague, and intriguing cards. Also like the site, it all gets a little old after awhile, but just when you are ready to close the book for good, a unique card will pop out at you. Like many people, I imagine, I used to follow the PostSecret blog pretty regularly. It's been awhile, though. In fact, I was a little surprised to see that it is apparently still going strong. Obviously this kind of anonymous and artistic postal sharing is filling a need for both the submitters and the readers.

I can't say this was my favorite read ever, but it was relatively fun to flip through and brought me back to the early days of the blogosphere when this kind of thing seemed pretty special and subversive.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor (1982)

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor (1982) is my next selection from Harold Bloom's western canon list, one of the longest reading challenges I've ever undertaken. At the rate I'm going, I might get through about 10% of the titles.

The book is a series of seven interconnected stories, all focusing on a run down housing development called Brewster Place in an unnamed city. The buildings are old and press up against an unnatural wall that was put in after the city developed the major road next to the buildings. The wall isolates the complex, but also protects it. The development has housed lots of different groups of people over the years and is now a part of the African-American community.

The women in the stories are different ages and come from different circumstances, but they are all pretty poor, and are usually trying to get out of there to live somewhere else. Still, they form a community that loves and hates and obsesses and criticizes and cares for one another. I liked some stories better than others, but all of them have a strong voice and a movement to them that really makes them a part of the whole. And the ending. OMG the ending is one of the best endings I've ever read. I'm an endings person, and a good one can wash over all the small flaws in a book.

This was Naylor's first novel and she won the National Book Award for it. Some of you may recognize this title from the very popular Oprah Winfrey produced / starring mini-series from 1989. If I watched it when I was a kid, I don't remember, but I'd love to check it out after reading the book. From YouTube it looks like it might be on the corny side, but I'd still love to see what they do with some of these characters.