Saturday, December 19, 2009

Some guys just know how to make an exit

C.D.B. Bryan, author of Friendly Fire, about the accidental death of a solider in Vietnam, died of cancer December 15 at his home in Guilford, Conn. His wife, Mairi, said he was holding a shaken martini when he died.

He was 73.

Bryan wrote for several magazines throughout his career, but he was best known for Friendly Fire. The book, which started as an article for The New Yorker, is about the 1970 friendly-fire shrapnel death of Michael Eugene Mullen, a soldier from Iowa. It chronicled his parents' doubts about the Army's official account of the death, their quest for answers and the transformation of his mother, Peg Mullen, into an antiwar activist.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thoughts of a few '09 "best of" lists

Something to contemplate while you are waiting for my reading list and “best of” books for 2009:

Only Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs makes the ‘best of” list for Slate, The Washington Post and The New York Times. I didn’t like it much (there’s a tell) and I predict that if you decide to read this book – against my recommendation – you won’t either. It starts great, but then wanders off into the wilderness and doesn’t return.

Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City, which I am reading now, makes the “best of” list for Slate and The New York Times. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel also appears twice; selected by Slate and the Post.

Other books on Slate’s list include: John Updike's Endpoint, Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro and Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower. I have not read Endpoint, but you cannot go wrong with the books by Munro and Tower.

The Post’s top five include The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk (which I will read before the year’s end), American Rust by Philipp Meyer (it will only disappoint you) and The Stalin Epigram by Robert Littell (which I am not familiar with).

An enthusiastic yes to the Times for its selection of Maile Meloy’s short story collection, Both Way is the Only Way I Want It. I gave this one to my daughter who is striving to be a writer.

The Times also listed Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls and A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert. Walbert is a talented writer but I didn’t like this book that much. I’ve seen Walls novel in the bookstores, but have yet to read it.