Numerical Madness and an Insanely Good Book

On the last day of 2018, my husband was downcast about the Goodreads challenge.  Writers and bloggers were yakking online about the impossibility of meeting their goals.  And now our breakfast conversation mirrored online madness.

“I’m two books short,” he said.

I almost spat out my oatmeal. I’m the pop culture one, he’s the intellectual.   This was all my fault.  I’d told him about the Goodreads challenge. “Well, the whole thing is kind of dumb, isn’t it?”  And I confessed I’d canceled my Goodreads account.

“Now you tell me!”

Well, we soon recovered our sense of humor,  and I accumulated a pile of short humor books he could power through.  But he didn’t bother.

I did the Goodreads challenge for two years, and then I went rogue.  In some ways, I fear the numerical challenge represents the ultimate American loneliness.  Spend enough time online and you get the idea that reading is about speed and pages per hour, not satisfaction or bliss or language or vital information. There is no distinction between the demands of poetry and  romance novels, picture books and philosophical treatises.  Some of us read 1,000-page Victorian novels, others  Y.A. books; yet all are equal in the Goodreads challenge.  Stats up!

AN INSANELY GOOD BOOK.  I am devouring Stuart Nadel’s novel, The Inseparables.  I have had it on the shelf a couple of years, and I finally decided on a whim to begin it on New Year’s Day.  Such a good call!  Nadel, who won a 5 Under 35 Award from the National Book Foundation, has written an elegant, entertaining book about three generations of women trying to navigate a society hostile to women’s sexuality.  Henrietta Oliphant, a recent widow, is the feminist author of a popular novel about a woman’s sexual exploits, The Inseparables, which was trashed by the critics when it was published in the 1970s.  Henrietta, who taught women’s studies in New York before she and her husband moved to Massachusetts, has been ashamed of the book for years.  But since she is financially strapped, she has allowed the publisher to reissue it for an anniversary (in its original pink cover, no less).  And subsequent generations are  fascinated by the book, including her daughter Oona, an orpthopedic trauma surgeon who is in the process of getting a divorce and has moved back home, and her granddaughter Lydia, suspended from boarding school after a boy posted a nude photo of her on the internet.

The characterizations are superb and I am thoroughly enjoying this book!

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