What I’m Reading

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January 2014

Eight Girls Taking Pictures By Whitney Otto

What a great gift from my Dad. At a time when I was starting to feel bored with my surroundings he sent me this book in the mail knowing that I would see inspiration within it. 8 Girls Taking Pictures is inspired from 6 real life women photographers (Imogen Cunningham, Ruth Orkin, and Lee Miller to name a few), that helped influence the last 100 years of the photographic industry. Looking into the obligations, struggles and dreams of 8 woman, Otto beautifully brings to focus the complicated but often serially simplified perception of the roles of woman with art, family, and a woman’s place in the workplace in the 20th century. Grete Stern’s story told with liberties through the character of Charlotte Blum, is especially heartbreaking. Charlotte’s story begins at her workplace in Germany in 1927; where she designs window displays and advertisements for a popular department store. Besides the attention paid to Charlotte’s ideas of challenging gender rolls of housewives in the displays she creates, a greater plot develops when Ines, a lesbian artist takes notice of the displays. The two become involved over decades of time in a twisted plot involving love, a shared photography business,  relocation due to racism and the lolls and highs of creative success. What I enjoyed most about Charlotte’s story however was the thought provoking ending. Finding herself in Argentina in a heterosexual marriage with a child, and Ines a continent away, Charlotte is forced to make a choice between creative fulfillment in a unhappy marriage or true love. You might be surprised by her final decision.

I listened to a radio interview with the author soon after I finish the book and an interesting fact came to light about the real life women the characters were based on. Through Otto’s research she had found that all of the photographers had a very special relationship with their fathers. Despite the rolls that society was pushing girls to stay domestic and boys to become the breadwinners of future families or the fact that some of the girls had brothers who also needed the attention of their fathers, none of that seemed to matter. For one reason or another, the daughter always seemed to be the favorite. The birth of the artist always began with a father creatively nurturing the dreams and potential of a daughter. Trust and Love. I can’t help but thank my Dad for doing the same for me.

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December 2013

The Expats By Chris Pavone

A quick read for those traveling or living abroad. Pavone pulls personal experience being a spouse of a employed wife who’s work recently took them abroad. Through his leading character Kate, he touches upon subjects pertaining to reinventing oneself and finding your own footing when  starting a new life abroad. One part Spy thriller, one part self discovery makes this book a fun easy going read and easy way to pass time in an airport.

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May 2013

A Painter of Words from Uruguay: Mario Benedetti

The Rest is Jungle & other stories

Author Mario Benedetti, a native Uruguayan, writes a taste of spanish culture offering the reader a look inside the mind of a native.  The countries written about are nonspecific, just as the points of view from lead spanish characters vary from a Military Captain to a house pet.  At first I found his POV changes from each story a little bit jarring, but his strong depiction of multifaceted characters remains the holding thread to connect the short stories together.  Often his characters’ flaws and discrepancies are at the forefront of a storyline; highlighting conflicting conversations taking place inside the POV’s head.  From Listening To Mozart  we hear a similar dialog of a Captain Montes during the time of the dirty wars in South America.  He drowns himself in Whisky and Mozart every night, trying to forget his evil deeds of the day. Book040713_0001 After his young son Jorgito asks “Dad, is it true you torture?” we hear the inner conflict of a seemingly ruthless, emotionless man.

“A million dollar question: Where will your sense of discipline lead you Caption Montes? Will it lead you to commit more crimes on behalf of others? Shrink from your image in the mirrors? Where will your sense of discipline lead you, little Captain Montes? To begin suppressing your capacity to love? Turn your hatred into a routine? …” Captain Montes knows now his son is too young to fully understand his question to his father.  He goes on thinking: “Do you think that with time your son will forgive what he now ignores?”

Benedetti writes about a very sensitive subject and challenges the reader to see the man behind the Captain’s mask of “duty” who struggles to find justification for his own actions.

From The Rage Has Ended, we hear a story of an affaire between a married woman and a stranger witnessed from the unknowing husband’s dog (Fido).  From Fido’s perspective:

First of all there was the Other Man. Yes, one afternoon when he [Fido] was alone in the apartment, having a siesta in front of the bathtub, the woman came home with the Other Man. Fido had growled fearlessly, as if he were prophesying. The Man had called him repeatedly in a loving falsetto voice, but Fido didn’t like his pressed black pants or unpleasant odor. That time the woman had only talked with the Other Man, though they had laughed more then ever before. But another day, when she was alone in the apartment with Fido and the Man showed up, they held hands, and ended up hugging. Afterwards , that round face, with a black moustache and bulging eyes, began to show up more and more frequently. They would never go into the bedroom, but did things on the sofa that brought Fido embarrassing and bittersweet memories….-One afternoon- who knows why- they noticed Fido’s presence again. Actually, it was the woman who noticed him, …Perhaps she was especially aware that Fido existed, that he was present, that he was a witness, the only witness. Fido had nothing to blame her for, or rather, he didn’t know that he did indeed have something to blame her for, but he was there, in the bathroom or in the dining room, watching.” –

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