** The Fruit Hunters by Adam Leith Gollner


The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Adventure, Commerce, and Obsession is full of exotic, unknown fruit, and I mean unknown, not mere dragon fruit, rambutan, or durian, but goji, kalmon, and mohobo-hobo.  Unfortunately, while the book displays pleasing botanical drawings of various fruit trees along each section head, there are no pictures of these rarities, even as the author bends over backward to describe their stunning taste.

And while the author knows how to meander around the world and a variety of topics, he can linger too long. Case in point: it may good to know about crazy frutarians, but after a while they just sound like any other obsessive types. I would also dispense with the standard lament of the food industry’s depriving consumers of good-tasting fruit. Surely if consumers demand something else than cardboard, the industry will deliver. I may live in paradise (I do live in California, which is surely close to paradise when it comes to fruit) but I see that my local fruit-and-vegetable shop is starting to promote apples and apricots grown by specific particular local growers (tomatoes, too, which are technically fruit as well) — and customers are responding. If we could educate everyone to look for taste and not just looks, we can change the way fruit is marketed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Non fiction

** To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris


To Rise Again at a Decent Hour is written as a highly sophisticated stream of consciousness story starring a workaholic dentist who dates his own staff (to save time, one imagines), and is suddenly ambushed by a mysterious man who creates a fake website for his business and slowly adds to his fake social presence, forcing him to confront the man and eventually get sucked into his (most improbable) story of a lost tribe. I thought the first third or half of the book was brilliant: the dentist with the messy personal life is just too entertaining (and who knows what our own dentists are thinking about while our mouths are open and dialog inexistent). Unfortunately, I found the unlikely denouement to be too far-fetched.

Leave a comment

Filed under New fiction

* Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile


The premise of Queen Sugar is that a young African-American woman who lives in Los Angeles unexpectedly  inherits a sugarcane plantation in Louisiana from her father. Upon moving there, the single mother, moving in with her elderly grandmother, discovers that the plantation is a mess and other planters not especially friendly. Add in a wayward half-brother and all the stereotypes of the South,  dysfunctional families, and heroic rescues come together for the ball (and a hurricane, too!)

O dear.

Leave a comment

Filed under New fiction

*** The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger


It may be fitting that I read The Divorce Papers immediately after Love Illuminated, but this is pure, light fiction, cunningly rendered through the correspondence between an aggrieved wife and her divorce lawyer, a criminal law specialist who has never worked on a divorce, but who gets assigned to it after the wife specifically requests her. Beside the divorce case, there are intrigues at the law firm, partially caused by the unusual assignment of lawyer, and personal issues with the lawyer’s family (rather more ponderous and forgettable). A fun, undemanding story in an unusual format that works.

Leave a comment

Filed under New fiction

** Love Illuminated by Daniel Jones


Love Illuminated: Exploring Life’s Most Mystifying Subject (with the Help of 50,000 Strangers) is a distillation of many. many letters read by the editor of the Modern Love column in the New York Times. His many anecdotes flow fluently and often, happily, against received wisdom — except when he argues in favor of arranged marriages…  And his riffing on selecting last names is hilarious.

Leave a comment

Filed under Non fiction

* After Her by Joyce Maynard


Perhaps Wendy Lesser has a point. There are lots of books that are, well, mediocre. Exhibit A: After Her, which strains to recreate the frisson of a (real) serial killer’s spree, although to be fair it paints a sweet picture of a loving detective-father’s relationship with his daughters. The plucky heroine could not save it for me. I recommend Labor Day instead (the book).

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Mystery

* Why I Read by Wendy Lesser


How can I not enjoy a book that states, in its second paragraph, the obvious truth that reading is a compulsion? (Hello, fellow addicts!) Because Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books should perhaps be renamed “The Pleasure of Serious Books, as determined by the author, who may well enjoy a mystery book or two but let’s face it, will only consider Literature with a capital “L” as worth our time an investment”. Perhaps that title was a little long? But alas it seems to be a love fest for Literature majors, who not only read and enjoyed The Brothers Karamazov, but also remember the plot and each character’s name, and enjoy dissecting the plot thirty years afterwards. I plead forgetfulness, and the difficulty of Russian names, and general ennui with the whole concept of dissection — and I feel just a little left out and put out when the dissection occurs without the quick summary that may help the non-cognoscenti follow along.

Perhaps the whole point is to exclude those who have not read the recommended 100 books that appear in appendix, and those who intend to read outside the list.

Leave a comment

Filed under Non fiction