17. Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops – Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont
I had to pick up the pace a bit on my reading, since the first quarter of the year was mostly spent working, riding the train, sleeping and then riding the train back to work. This little volume actually took a while to read, though. And I enjoyed every reminiscing about nearly every little entry in the encyclopedia of all things Gen X.
Little did we know, growing up in the era of polyester and big hair, that we would be this nation’s last unified generation. When I was in third grade, you could be assured if you watched “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” last night, so did everyone else in your class. There were, after all, maybe five other channels to choose from.
Those kinds of memories are listed in this clever and silly book, including some I have no memory of whatsoever (Had Needham stunt set, anyone?). It’s like being reminded you aren’t that old – I mean, we had computers – and that you really are – yes, I was thrilled to rock out on a boom box – all at once.
Having written a few columns on this topic, my only complaint would be that they stopped short of some of the iconic memories I have. Perhaps in Volume Two they can get to Mr. Microphone (“We’ll be back to pick you up later!”), banana seats (that can’t possibly have just been a girl thing) and My Buddy (the first doll for boys!). A girl can dream, even if it is for memories.
18. Heads You Lose – Lisa Lutz and David Hayward
Paul and Lacey Hansen are 20-something siblings, orphans who get by as pot farmers in a rural northern California burg. Lisa Lutz and David Hayward are an author and poet, respectively, who once dated and are now attempted to write a novel together alternating chapters.
And frankly, I’m not sure who is more entertaining, Paul and Lacey or Lisa and David.
The novel is a mystery that transpires after the siblings discover a headless corpse on their land and move it lest their operation be exposed, only to find someone returns the body back to their farm.
As mysteries go, it’s actually fairly amusing to not follow the traditional route, considering each author moves the story the way they want/feel.
As snarky asides go, the notes at the end of the chapters between the two authors are magnificent. Taking sides, I like Lisa, who manages to skewer David on his own importance without coming across as too much. What else can she do with the owner of an MFA (he reminds her of this and that she didn’t finish college at one point) who thinks he’s really onto something by creating a hooker/stripper with a heart of gold?
Said stripper, who has a limp from a bad pole-related injury, is among some of the more outlandish characters the two come with in their bickering. That means even as the plot meanders all over the place, it can be kinda fun.
End of the day, though, I’m probably going to go find something else written by Lutz. Hayward apparently has a poem in some old issue of Harper’s. Maybe some day in a doctor’s office …
19. The Scent of Rain and Lightning – Nancy Pickard
This novel is the somewhat more literary equivalent of a Lifetime movie. That’s not necessarily a slam. It just is what it is.
Jody Linder is our focus. She is orphaned as a toddler in one of the most shocking crimes ever to hit her small Kansas town. The man sent to prison for her father’s murder (her mother disappeared that same night and is presumed dead) is a local punk that her prominent grandfather had tried to rehabilitate by hiring to work his farm.
The story opens when Jody finds out a new trial has been ordered for the presumed murderer. In short order, it is revealed there are many questions about just what happened that night and who the real killer might be.
That sounds like the beginnings of a thriller mystery. In Pickard’s hands, though, it’s a chance for a character study of small-town people and the secrets that hid even in the smallest places.
There’s a bit too much description here for my taste (note to Pickard: We get it. Lots of storm images are your imagery for the churning emotions and trouble coming over the horizon. You and storms are like Melissa Etheridge and fire. Enough!). There is also a too neat ending that runs counter to your point about the uncertainty of life.
But hey, if it’s ever made into a flick for women’s TV, you won’t have to rewrite much, so there’s that.
20. A Man For All Species – Marc Marrone
Hey, you know that dorky looking guy who doesn’t sound too bright when he talks about animals on his early morning Sunday TV show?
Well, it turns out he is in fact a dork, kinda dim and just as taken with himself as are the parrots he breeds and imports. This book tells you that and many, many other random, painfully dull and rather shallow stories of a man who is way too proud of being a pet expert when even he admits he has no formal training, was often bullied and spent a lot of time alone with his bugs and later critters.
It turns out, sometimes those painfully quiet people are just painful when they talk. I can’t believe I read this entire book. Oof.