Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Salon: Labor Day

It's hard to believe it's Labor Day already. September? How did that happen? Unfortunately, the weather seems to be cooperating with the idea that it's no longer summer, though the sunshine is beautiful. In any case, as it's chilly, today was just as good a day as any to spend reading. Today I've been switching back and forth between books. As school is starting soon, I've been working my way through Robert Orsi's Between Heaven and Earth: The Religious Words People Make and the Scholars Who Study Them, which I've assigned this quarter. Orsi uses 20th c. American Catholicism to examine how religious people develop meanings and connections to the spiritual world, and simultaneously comments on how scholars should and can approach studying these issues. It's quite an engaging read and interesting book; I think it should prompt some interesting discussions. It also touches on a number of very current issues in the historical profession: from disability history, to lived religion, to the history of children.

For fun I've been reading Barry Glassner's The Culture of Fear. It's a look at how the media completely distorts the public perception of what the real dangers and problems are in society, by focusing in a few key scare stories, and making no attempt to back up their reporting with fact. It's interesting, and it definitely demands we look at the media critically. I've read about 3/4 of the book, and I'm hoping to finish it tonight. Lots of it we already know: the war on drugs does nothing to address the situations that lead many people into drug use. The chances of being carjacked are REALLY small, and so on. My review will be forthcoming on here.

And I've got a review for today. To celebrate the last day of August, I'll be reviewing Judith Rossner's novel, August, a tale of therapy, relationship crisis, and summer vacation.

This novel tells two parallel stories: that of psychotherapist LuLu Shinefeld, embroiled in a mid-life crisis, and one of her clients, Dawn, a young artist and college students who is in a constant state of crisis. The stories of these two women are played out in a series of chapters which alternate between Dawn's therapy sessions and Lulu's life, which consists of a recently broken marriage and an attempt to make an old fling into something more permanent. Both women find their lives unravelling, and men are at the center of both women's problems. Lulu is having trouble negotiating the dating world, and Dawn is trying to deal with her obsessions for various men, including her former (male) psychotherapist. Both women struggle with family issues, too, as Dawn tries to reconcile her feelings about her adoptive and biological parents, and Lulu tries to deal with her children's unhappiness with their mother's new life. Overall, this was an engaging book. Rossner is an able storyteller, and I found myself drawn back to find out where the plot would go. But as many storytellers do, Rossner's characters seem to stray from the believable at times. Dawn is now what one might call a sympathetic character. I'd call her whiny, annoying, and sometimes scary in her obsessions. The title, August, comes from the month each year that Lulu takes off for vacation, and this is when much of both characters' development happens. It's when Lulu takes off to the Hamptons, and is forced to think about her relationships and personal life. It's also the time each year that Dawn dreads; she believes herself to be unable of coping without a therapist nearby (and she's probably right). Despite the issues previously mentioned, this was still an enjoyable read, and it easily kept my attention.

Judith Rossner, August (Mariner, 1997) ISBN: 0395860067

1 comment:

frumiousb said...

The Robert Orsi book sounds fascinating, actually. Thank you very much for mentioning it.