All branches of Marin County Free Library will be closed on Monday, July 4 for Independence Day.

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This installment: an intimate, quotidian journal by a favorite writer; a delightfully weird New Mexican novel, and a true life story of hard times and redemption.



   Winter Journal by Paul Auster


This is an odd, slim book but one that satisfies my endless curiosity about matters of daily life. Auster tells us about every address he's lived in, for instance, including apartment layouts. The girls and women in his life. His ailments, primarily panic disorder. The death of his parents. His bad habits. All tinged with increasing age and the poignant perspective it brings. He uses "you" throughout referring to himself, a peculiar stylistic effect I got used to eventually. I was glad to spend time in his company on the page, as it were.


   A Million Heavens by John Brandon


A revolving cast of characters, all based in the benighted tiny town of Lofte, near Albuquerque. Very short chapters with an almost kaleidoscopic effect. A boy lies in a coma. A vigil gathers outside the clinic. The mayor, owner of Motel Javelina (on the skids like most of everything else in town), dreams of marrying his mistress, who's a pro. Cecelia's a kind of college student/musician who ends up channeling the songs of dead Reggie. We also hear from him in his peculiar limbo. And then there's the wolf, drawn to the music, making minor mayhem but not the carnage you'd expect. So it's a surrealistic yet unglamorous small world, and though the action or lack of it seems random at first, there are modest but gratifying resolutions for many. An unusual voice.


   Runaway Girl by Carissa Phelps with Larkin Warren


Subtitled Escaping Life on the Streets, One Helping Hand at a Time. I'm drawn to books like these because it's so amazing that out of what seems like impossible degradation, someone can come through with honor. Carissa grew up in Coalinga in a huge family with a bad stepfather. Tumultuous atmosphere, neglect and then repression, so she split at 12. What's out there? More brutality from sexual predators and then, when she was caught, nightmare placements in juvie or foster homes. But along the line a teacher's assistant saw her potential, brought her along, and now she's a lawyer helping girls like her. Wow! What an example of hope amidst the worst ever.


Back next Monday. (And don't forget my radio show with Anne Lamott 3/26, 10 am, on

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Posted by: Neshama

Neshama works at the Fairfax Library.

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