Monday, October 03, 2011

Book Review

I thought I'd share with you capsule reviews of two absolutely great books - one that I read while on vacation; the other of which I'm still working through.

Harpo Speaks is the autobiography of Harpo Marx, and it's one of the funniest, yet most poignant autobiographies I've ever read.

I'd read The Groucho Letters, a collection of letters to and from Groucho Marx, several times over the years, and it's as hysterically funny as you might expect from an over-the-top character like Groucho. But Harpo Marx was known for being the silent brother, communicating on screen only through his rubber face, his old Model-T bulb horn, and a vast array of props hidden in his baggy raincoat. He was, in fact, a very literate and engaging speaker, a member of the famous Algonquin Round Table, and a friend of many of the most famous literary and film personalities of his time, and his book is funny, well-written and endlessly entertaining. Among other things, you learn why he never spoke on stage and in the movies, how he came by his trademark costume of baggy raincoat and plug hat, and - most amazingly - how people as famous as the King of England imitated him during personal meetings. You will also wipe away a few tears as you read his description of the death of his amazing mother. This is an absolutely wonderful memoir, well worth your time in reading, both as a personal history and as a brilliantly drawn picture of a time gone by. Thanks go out to my friend Gilahi for recommending it to me.

In a somewhat different vein is The Night Circus, the debut novel by Erin Morgenstern.

I'm not through reading it yet, but I am completely captivated by this rich, complex story of a contest between two magicians, played out as a competition between their chosen representatives, Marco and Celia, in the arena of a magical circus that opens only at night. Part fantasy, part mystery-suspense, and part love story, this is a fast-paced and exciting book filled with beautifully-drawn imagery ... you can see the story unfold in your mind, smell the smells of the circus, and actually believe you are there and magic is real. If you read and enjoyed Susanna Clarke's novel Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, you will love The Night Circus.

And that's all for today. As we enter the chilly and rainy days of autumn and Old Man Winter waits in the wings to hammer us with long, cold nights, it's time to stock up on great books to read while wrapped up in a warm quilt and sitting in front of a fire with a cup of hot chocolate. These are two excellent choices to start you off.

Have a good day. Read more. More thoughts tomorrow.



Gilahi said...

SO glad you enjoyed "Harpo Speaks". I hate making a recommendation and then having it flop. I agree with you, though, this book ranks right up there with Douglas Adams' work (although in a complete different vein) for hilarity. This is especially true if you're alread a Marx Brothers fan.

Amanda said...

I like the sound of 'The Night Circus'. Its been awhile since I've been totally carried away in some imaginary world...

Chrissy said...

Ohh...I am pretty interested in the 'Night Circus'! The imagery on the front cover is beautiful too! I was considering making 'the help' my next book...but I'll rethink now.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

I'll make a point of reading Night Circus. It sounds like a winner.