Monday, June 30, 2008

102 Minutes

If you're anything like me, you are completely obsessed on learning anything and everything that involves September 11, 2001. Being that it was just one month short of my thirtieth birthday, I was old enough to remember every single minute of that day.

A friend gave me 102 Minutes and told me to be prepared. It wasn't easy reading, but still highly informative. I took it home on a rare Friday where I had no plans, sat on my porch and got started. Perhaps a record for me, I had the book finished by Sunday afternoon, less than two days later. I couldn't stop reading and learning more and more of that horrific day.

102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers is put together by two authors, Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn, who pieced together transcripts, phone calls and emails to get a clearer picture of what happened to the people trapped in the towers. Having heard the brave voices of these people brought a newer truth to the events of the day that I didn't fully comprehend before. I don't think I knew that everyone trapped about the crash zones died. I also now have a better understanding of why the firemen didn't just STOP and turn around instead of continuing up all those flights of stairs. (They were told the buildings would withstand fire for at least 3-4 hours.) Another fact that I had trouble grasping was how could jumping 90+ stories possibly be the best solution?? Obviously there is no way to survive that drop, and even people on the ground were killed by falling bodies. But some people were struggling so hard to breathe with others pushing behind them that they simply fell out of the broken windows. Others had to escape over 1,000° temperatures, so obviously falling was a less painful choice.

The authors also point out many design flaws and shortcuts made when building the towers. While I learned of the smaller stairwells, other shortcuts and a grim comparison to the Titanic (the buildings were built to be "unsinkable"), I feel that we can only move forward in future construction and not dwell on what now cannot be changed.

I don't think that as Americans we should bury our heads in the sand and not continue to learn more and more about these tragic events. I fear that as time passes the pain of that day lessens for the people who weren't there or aren't constantly reminded of it, and that is wrong. I plan to keep September 11, 2001 top-of-mind and never, ever forget.

The New Classics: Books

I really used to think that I read a lot. I know I definitely read more than some of my friends who also love to read. But I have been checking out some blogs lately by other readers and it puts me to shame. One woman reads 80-150 books a year (she recently told me it's more like 1-2 books a week, but still)! While she reads a lot more non-fiction than I do, it's still a huge accomplishment. Another blogger reads many of the same books that I do, but he still kicks my ass at the quantity of books, and even has a 10,000 page-a-year goal. I'm too afraid that if I gave myself that kind of "goal" it would feel too much like homework and therefore be too much pressure. I feel that way about book clubs too. I prefer to read what I want, when I want, and in my own time frame. But I still say (almost daily I repeat it to myself) that if I didn't work there is NO WAY that I would ever be bored. I would have time for my many hobbies, cook better and workout daily. Ahh, to dream. But I digress.

I love lists. Especially lists made about "best" books. Entertainment Weekly came out with the top 100 books from 1983-2008. I like to play a game with myself and get a really high number of "been there, done that." But on this list I only count eleven that I have read. That makes me sad. My list continues to grow, and if weren't for books on CD, I would be even further behind. Check out the list and let me know how many you've read. If it's less than 11, I might even feel a little better.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs is the second novel I have read by Richard Russo; the first one being Empire Falls. I love the idea of epic novels and simple, wonderful story-telling. I think Russo's are those type of books even though they may tend to run a little slow at times. I listened to this one on a whopping 21 CDs, and it took me almost two months to finish. I can't even imagine how long it would have taken me to read the 536 pages, or if I would have had the patience to continue through the slow parts. But Bridge of Sighs is a wonderful story that immediately gets the reader invested in all the characters as you learn about them over a span of 50 years.

Being that the weather is Cleveland is finally beautiful, I'm opting to take the cheater way out of my review today so I can go out and play. But I will first say that I loved this book. The following is from Publisher's Weekly.

"Bridge of Sighs is Russo's splendid chronicle of life in the hollowed-out town of Thomaston, N.Y., where a tannery's runoff is slowly spreading carcinogenic ruin. At the novel's center is Lou C. Lynch (his middle initial wins him the unfortunate, lasting nickname Lucy), but the narrative, which covers more than a half-century, also unfolds through the eyes of Lou's somewhat distant and tormented friend, Bobby Marconi, as well as Sarah Berg, a gifted artist who Lou marries and who loves Bobby, too. The lives of the Lynches, the Bergs and the Marconis intersect in various ways, few of them happy; each family has its share of woe. Lou's father, a genial milkman, is bound for obsolescence and leads his wife into a life of shopkeeping; Bobby's family is being damaged by an abusive father. Sarah moves between two parents: a schoolteacher father with grandiose literary dreams and a scandal in his past and a mother who lives in Long Island and leads a life that is far from exemplary. Russo weaves all of this together with great sureness, expertly planting clues—and explosives, too—knowing just when and how they will be discovered or detonate at the proper time. Incidents from youth—a savage beating, a misunderstood homosexual advance, a loveless seduction—have repercussions that last far into adulthood. Thomaston itself becomes a sort of extended family, whose unhappy members include the owners of the tannery who eventually face ruin. Bridge of Sighs is a melancholy book; the title refers to a painting that Bobby is making (he becomes a celebrated artist) and the Venetian landmark, but also to the sadness that pervades even the most contented lives. Lou, writing about himself and his dying, blue-collar town, thinks that the loss of a place isn't really so different from the loss of a person. Both disappear without permission, leaving the self diminished, in need of testimony and evidence."