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FIERCE ANTICIPATION: The Literary Edition [Molly Garner Reads a Lot of Non-Fiction]

Fiercely Anticipating

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination:  A Memoir by Elizabeth McCracken (Little, Brown & Company)

The figment of McCracken’s imagination is in this case her stillborn child.  Initially I thought, “Why on earth would anyone want to read a memoir about that?”  Accolades from Oprah didn’t convince me, nor did glowing reviews from the NY Times, the Washington Post or Entertainment Weekly.  No, it was NPR that finally sat me down on a snowy Saturday, as usual, to quietly nudge my tastes in the appropriate direction with Lori Gottleib’s enthusiastic review on All Things Considered.

But is ‘appropriate’ really the best word to use when describing interest in a book that describes the devastatingly painful journey McCracken took when, after eight months of an “idyllic” pregnancy, she discovered she could no longer hear her baby’s heartbeat?  Well, yes.  This is a woman who, when pressed by the authorities for a name to put on her baby’s death certificate, supplied the name she’d called him in utero— Pudding.  She tempers unflinching reflections on the fleetingness of life with just the right combination of candidness and humor.  “I don’t even know what I would have wanted someone to say,” McCracken writes. “Not: It will be better. Not: You don’t think you’ll live through this, but you will. Maybe: Tomorrow you will spontaneously combust. … That might have comforted me.”

Granted, McCracken relieves the tension somewhat by stating in the very beginning that a second, healthy baby sits on her lap as she writes.  In McCracken’s capable hands what could have been a tragic, sentimental tale becomes a courageous homage to the endurance of the human spirit.   I feel this memoir will be to stillbirth what Anne Lamott’s A Journal of My Son’s First Year is to parenting.  And while I have no immediate plans to navigate the waters of motherhood, I am still intrigued and excited to read this book.

Kind of Wanna Read

Decoded by Jay-Z

I am a huge fan of New York magazine book critic Sam Anderson, and I was fascinated by his side-by-side review of the autobiographies of Jay-Z and George Washington.  As a shameless history buff and, let’s face it, sort of a dweeb, I downloaded Ron Chernow’s mammoth Washingon tome straight to my Kindle.  As a musical theatre buff and, let’s face it, sort of a dweeb, I likewise skimmed over Decoded‘s Amazon page before closing it and logging onto Facebook.  I threw myself into Washington: A Life and it absorbed me completely.   (No, I’m not done yet.  If you’ve seen a copy of the actual book, then you know I won’t be done with it until 2014.)  I forgot all about Decoded until I was killing time in the Atlanta airport and there it was, lining the shelves of the airport bookstore.

Given that I am enjoying the minutia of our first president’s life so immensely– who knew that 18th century surveying could be so fascinating– I was tempted to pick up Jay-Z’s biography that day in the airport.  After all, Anderson had given almost as good a review to Decoded; his only complaint being that Jay-Z moves too quickly from lamenting the tragedy of the crack epidemic to profiting from it without morally justifying the transition.  “I’m complex,” Jay-Z writes, as he presumably dusts some dirt off his shoulder.

But, given that I had over 70% of Chernow’s book to finish, as well as Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom waiting in the wings, I decided Jay Z would have to remain on the shelf.  Once home, I did a quick search:  the New York Public Library has 272 holds on 104 copies of Decoded, compared to just 55 holds on the 77 copies of Washington:  A Life.  While I wait for it to become available, I may pick up Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra:  A Life.  In fact, I sense the literary theme of 2011 might become “So and So:  A Life.”  We’ll see…

Wouldn’t Read It If You Paid Me

A Shore Thing by Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi

Full confession:  I hate the Jersey Shore.  I don’t get it.  Everyone I know loves it “ironically,” while everyone I don’t know just loves it unironically.  The language, the plot lines, the “reality,” the stupid, fame-hungry characters, all of it is a little too bracing for me.   I don’t like being reminded that these idiots exist.  I know they do.  But I don’t have to invite them into my living room.  In fact, Jersey Shore is banned in my house.  My husband watches it furtively when I’m asleep or away, employing more caution than he would if he were watching, say, Debbie Does Dallas.

So the last thing I’m going to do is spend my hard-earned money on the memoirs of someone barely literate.   Frankly, I don’t know who would, given that her audience is divided into people whose literary yearnings never extend past US Weekly and those who just plain know better.  Besides, I’ve read all I need to in order to be pop-culturally up-to-date for upcoming Superbowl parties and  award show gatherings and the like, thanks to these excerpts nabbed by the New York Post:

“He had an okay body. Not fat at all. And naturally toned abs. She could pour a shot of tequila down his belly and slurp it out of his navel without getting splashed in the face.”

“Gia danced around a little, shaking her peaches for show. She shook it hard. Too hard. In the middle of a shimmy, her stomach cramped. A fart slipped out. A loud one. And stinky.”

“I love food. I love drinking, boys, dancing until my feet swell. I love my family, my friends, my job, my boss. And I love my body, especially the badonk.”

Need I read more?