Thursday, February 17, 2011
Mercy. Last night at 1145 I finished reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." And not a minute too soon. The book was about Mrs. Lacks' family and also her cells, which number now in the billions and trillions worldwide, are weighed in metric tons, would circle the globe three times, even though she passed away in 1951. It's really quite fascinating and I admire author Rebecca Skloot for a massive job of research and passion.
That said, for my tastes, I wish the book had been about one-tenth as long, a lengthy 10,000-words magazine piece. It felt like I'd read one day and, overnight, the book would multiply, like Mrs. Henrietta's cells.
I immediately moved along to "Devil in the White City," a true story of murder and intrigue at the turn-of-the-19th-century World's Fair (it was called something else then) in Chicago. This baby read like running water, though it might have had something to do with the jubilation I'd felt just being through with the cells book.
(I am not above bailing out of books I don't enjoy, but again, I enjoyed Skloot's book in an odd way. It wasn't torture reading it; I just kept waiting for a bigger payoff. On the book's FRONT cover, there is this information: "Doctors took her cells without asking. Those cells never died. They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry. More than 20 years later, her children found out. Their lives would never be the same." Again, that's on the FRONT cover. And really, that's about all I needed to know...)
So, a brief catch-up. I can't remember the books I've read since Christmas, not right this second, but I know one of them was LIT, pictured above, a book about geting drunk and getting sober, by Mary Karr. She wrote Liar's Club and later Cherry. Like Lit, those are memoirs, the first of her life at home as a child and the second of her young womanhood. I've read neither but have heard expecially good things about the first one. "Lit" I really enjoyed; witty and tragic but not overly 'feel sorry for me' or sentimental. Good good conversational and telling writing. Her writing reminds me of Anne Lamott ("Traveling Mercies" and "Grace (Eventually)", which I liked a lot and re-read parts of now and then.
The title: Lit as in having had too much to drink, or Lit as in literature (she's a writer, teacher and poet) or Lit, as in spiritually. Good title. Great title.