Book info

Making It Up (2006)

Making it Up (2006)
Rating
3.44 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
0143037846 (ISBN13: 9780143037842)
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English
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publisher
penguin books
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Making It Up (2006)
Making It Up (2006)

About book: "Making It Up" would be a great book choice for a long weekend at the cabin. The short story format (8 in all) makes book easy to pick up and set down (and think about, and re-read, and then come back again...). My favorites of the series:(1) The Mozambique Channel (About falling in love on a ship that is fleeing a war: "She felt these days as though she were two people; there was this new self, who lived differently, for whom each morning were a rich, fresh realization, and there was the old Shirley, who knew nothing of this, who walked in a kind of innocence. She knew too that, whatever came of this, nothing would be the same again. She could not go back to that former self.")(2) Comet (About the surprise discovery of the body of a half-sister who died 45 years ago...this excerpt a memory expressed by the sister's lover: "There's a house in Cairo called the Beit il Kritiliya...She had loving going there when she was a child--it had seemed like the 'Arabian Nights' brought to life...We went there. One blazing-hot afternoon; inside it was cool, as though you had gone into another world. And I think we each saw a quite different place. I thought it was wonderful--exotic, romantic, essence of the East. And she was rather quiet and glum. She tried to explain. It was that she couldn't any longer see it as she once had: now it was interesting and strange, but it had lost its power. The magic was gone--whatever it was that turned it into something mythical. She said she realized that the change was in her, not the house; it was to do with having grown up.")(3) The Temple of Mithras (About an archaeological research dig: "Alice cleans shards with a toothbrush. The impression given by the assembled harvest of the dig is that the ancient occupants of the hill were people who spent their time breaking crockery and losing small objects...")Throughout this book, some of the best stuff is Lively and her characters pondering what's left over after a life, how those who come later interpret the clues, what it means for an ancestor or a stranger to have made one choice over another. A good summer read!!!

I think to some extent most writers use their own lives, or those of people they know, as inspiration for their work, but Penelope Lively is open about this in this book, and presents a collection of stories as fiction but has side notes to them in her own voice, telling us what foundations the story had in reality and how she embellished it. She tells us of chances she never took, roads not travelled, and imagined different outcomes for things she may or may not have experienced. As I am doing this with my own novel, I found her thoughts on this fascinating. As some other reviewers pointed out, some of the stories were more interesting than others, but overall I really love her writing. She has such an economy and elegance in her style that I really want to learn from, and I'm keen to read more.
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Reviews
Audra
Preferred the stories to her musings about why she wrote them. I think the preface sufficed and could have been a little longer, and the interstitials unnecessary. I preferred the second half of the book to the first, and the last three stories were lovely and exceptionally well written and explored, "Comet" and "Number Twelve Sheep Street" especially. I find I rather like Penelope Lively and wish were were two old Brits sitting down to tea together. She seems an extraordinary individual, with vast experience, keen intellect and such a detailed memory!
Jennifer Burns
Penelope Lively has the gift of story telling in this marvelous volume of short stories. As she says "This book is fiction. If anything, it is an anti-memoir. My life serves at the prompt" where she writes alternate stories about her life. It is like a "What if..." What if I were to have moved to the United States... What if I were to die...Ingenious, if you ask me. It makes me want to write all of the "What ifs" for my life.There is a food scene in each story!"We went for a picnic up in the Moquattam hills, one of the first times together. I'd borrowed a car from someone I knew, and we drove out of Cairo, up into those hills that are a wonderful sort of mauve color, and we found a nice rock with a view and ate our sandwiches and our bananas and drank iced lemonade from the thermos" (p.157).
Bookmarks Magazine
One feels certain that had Lively not insisted on framing these tales with the stories of their real-life origin, the critical reaction would have tilted higher. As it is, she's delivered a hybrid collection__what she calls an "anti-memoir"__that confounds the issue. Most critics find the fiction perfectly engaging, as would befit a former winner of the Booker Prize (for Moon Tiger, 1987). But where curiosity or voyeuristic thirst might be slaked by the view into Lively's studio, the overall effect is a diminishment of the fiction at hand. Though critics excuse a little fiction in memoirs, apparently the reverse is not true.This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.
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