Reading Roundup for July (Just Under the Wire)

It’s been a busy month but here is what I have read.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa. An 18-year-old aspiring writer named Mario works at a radio station in 1950’s Lima, Peru with an eccentric scriptwriter. Mario meets his Aunt Olga’s sister, Julia, who is 13 years his senior and recently divorced. The two begin a surreptitious relationship. At the same time as the love affair is developing, this funny novel is interspersed with the increasingly bizarre stories by the scriptwriter, with characters shifting, dying, and reappearing. Interesting fact: Llosa’s first wife was his maternal uncle’s sister-in-law Julia, who was ten years older than him. Recommended for Aspiring Writers With a Taste for Cougars.

King of the Wild Suburb: A Memoir of Fathers, Sons, and Guns by Michael A. Messner. “I still wonder, what does a son get from his father, and how does he get it?” Sociologist Michael Messner recounts the ways he first bonded with his father and grandfather through annual hunting trips and how as a teenager he came to abhor hunting. There are no rants against hunters or gun owners. Only a thoughtful examination of one man’s set of relationships with his father and grandfather, and the implications for his own fatherhood. Recommended for Fathers and Sons.

Full Disclosure: Messner is the husband of my wife’s dissertation chair. I have had the pleasure of his and his family’s company.

The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness by Antonio Damasio. The human mind is complicated. Mind-bogglingly complicated. Damasio writes in a mostly lucid manner about how the brain’s structure for emotion and consciousness. I say mostly lucid because medical terms do come up frequently. This is not a quick read, but it more than satisfied my curiosity about what we humans now know about how our own minds work. Damasio relates a number of interesting cases where damage to certain parts of the brain revealed what it can or can not do without those particular sections. Recommended for Human Brains.

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