Sunday, August 1, 2010

She had me at (the novelist’s version of) “Hello”

When I heard that Judy at Towne Center Books had snagged yet another NY Times Bestselling author, with a new book that, not only got starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly (intellectual, nice), but also Kirkus (way impressive, because, like Mikey, they hate everything!) AND People Magazine (four stars!) I knew this was an author I had to meet.

Still, I was dubious. High expectations, especially those imposed by Kirkus, are sometimes a death knell to the pleasurable discovery of a great book. Add the pressure to like something “literary” and it can be an easy recipe for self-flagellating disappointment.

I have read enough books to know what I like and what I don’t. I am also at the point in life at which I have the experiences and confidence to say that I loved Eat, Pray, Love and that I barely remember Ullysess or The Heart of Darkness. Also, I hated HATED The Corrections. Color me populist. I’m okay with that.

Also, time is precious. I am spoiled by an abundance of great books and the means to enjoy them. There was once upon a time (not so long ago) when I would power my way through a so-so book, because I had made the psychic and financial commitment of buying it. Now, with so much information coming my way, with so many ways to preview a book before buying it, and with so many opportunities to buy a book as a cheap impulse purchase, my patience for mediocre books is as thin (and nostalgic) as my 20-something waistline. I would say that I only finish roughly 20% of the books I start (unless I read them for TV30 Bookclub!) So many books, so little time!

So, even though I knew that Allegra Goodman is a NY Times bestselling author, AND that she has been compared NUMEROUS times to Jane Austen (and Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite classic works of literature), AND that her latest book got rave reviews all over the map, skeptic that I am, I was not sold.

Then I opened the book…

From the bookjacket, “Goodman weaves together the worlds of Silicon Valley and rare book collecting in a delicious novel about appetite, temptation, and fulfillment.”

A book about two sisters, Emily, a pragmatic, high-flying CEO of a Silicon Valley start-up and her sister, Jess, a romantic, tree-hugging philosophy major at UC Berkeley, and the times of the boom and the bust of 1999-2002, Goodman is spot on with characters, dialogue and the milieu of the times.

So, back to Hello.

First page, first paragraph. It’s Fall 1999. It’s raining in California. Much-needed rain.

“Like money, the rain came in a rush, enveloping the Bay, delighting forecasters, exceeding expectations, charging the air.”

One. Perfect. Sentence.

Plus, as almost every wonderful author is, Allegra Goodman was charming, humble, open and delightful.

Watch the interview. Read the book.

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