Elaine loves reading everything under the sun and has lived all over the states, although her longest stint thus far has been in upstate NY. She went to school for music (and has studied it long enough to assert that she prefers being called a flutist and not a flautist) and has worked for various arts non-profits in Seattle. Otherwise, she loves to read and write about films (she's a sucker for IMDb's movie trivia pages), take photos, travel, and even more so to do all of the above with her husband.
Reviews & Recommendations
Watership Down might be the story I've read and reread the most. On the surface, it's a story about rabbits who journey from their warren, traveling across unfamiliar (and very English) countryside. But it's also a terrific odyssey, cast with memorable and admirable characters whom you wish you knew in real life. Adams based many of the rabbits off of people he served with in WWII, and I never tire of reading how they develop and learn to rely on each other throughout the book. It's an idyllic vantage of the countryside, it's an adventure novel of epic scale, and it's a powerful testament to the stories that bind us together.
In 1960, Steinbeck felt that he no longer intimately understood the country that he had been writing about for most of his life. Travels with Charley is his travelogue that came from his desire to see the country one last time before he died. It's a rich perspective on America as only Steinbeck can tell it, as he travels via a camper named Rocinante and solely in the company of his delightful pet poodle, Charley. It's a jewel of a travel essay and a snapshot of the US at the time of JFK/Nixon, all told in that cut-to-the-quick-beauty prose that he has.
Louis is a trumpeter swan who is not able to trumpet! Try as he might, he is unable to ko-oh, burble, or honk like his brothers and sisters. But then his father steals him a real brass trumpet, and Louis embarks on a worldwide quest to learn his instrument and communicate in his own unique way. Written by the author of Charlotte's Web and illustrated by Fred Marcellino, Trumpet of the Swan is a wonderful story about an intelligent character who finds joy and expression in music.
Emily Wilson’s translation fully embraces the ambiguous nature of cunning Odysseus while her precise language elucidates his journey. She makes The Odyssey a joy to read aloud, and the iambic pentameter flows as if it is music meant for the words rather than the words conforming to fit an arbitrary meter. This is not your fusty Odyssey: it’s a radical new one that also serves the original intent better than anything you’ve read before. Bonus: check out the New York Times interview with her for a fascinating look into how she worked on the text.
If you haven’t read Cortazar yet, the time is now! Hopscotch is elusive, dazzling, and devastating. You can either read the book straight through, or follow the map Cortazar sets, leading you to skip around the book’s chapters (he advises you to start reading at Chapter 73). And before you groan at that description and move on, I promise that the author is less pretentious and more carefree. Some parts you gristle through the enjoyment of language that he meanders through, and some parts are more straightforwardly narrative. Like its protagonist, it's lackadaisical, waxing philosophic, occasionally tragic, in equal measures historical and fantastical. Read however you want, but read multiple times to find each dip into like returning to a river that never remains the same.
The best book about twentieth century music and its historical context, for everyone who has perfect pitch to those who can only throw a pitch, and everyone in-between. Ross’ intelligent and cogent diction tells us what we’re hearing, why it is what it is, and why we should bother to listen. Compelling and compulsively readable. Ross has been on staff for The New Yorker since 1996 and reading him is always great fun, as he strips down the fuddy-duddy elitism that the dread words "classical music" tend to drum up.