Book with orange polka dots

Around the BlockAround the Bloc, the choice for the 2007 Mayor’s Book Club, is to be found at every branch of the library. It takes no time at all to read. The connection with Austin seems a bit tenuous. Stephanie Elizondo Griest, the author, attended UT, lived in a co-op, and refers in passing to such local landmarks as the Drag, Eeyore’s, Cap’n Quack’s, the old High Times coffee place, Barton Springs, and a very few more. She was employed for a while with the Austin bureau of AP. In its paperbound edition, this book’s list price is $13.95 for 399 pages. I enjoyed the account of the author’s residences in Moscow and Beijing and her visit to Cuba. She associates with other young adults and pays the right amount of attention to food, which is a lot! This is an enjoyable travel account. The author wonders why she invested so much time in learning Russian and Mandarin while ignoring the Spanish that surrounded her while she was growing up. Big chunks of this book make for entertaining readling aloud. We all wanted to know, what’s with orange polka-dot teapots in Russia? She mentions several, and nearly every domestic establishment seems to include one. Google doesn’t help. The author’s schedule will bring her to Austin for several events, beginning on April 17 and ending on April 21.

3 Comments so far

  1. Prentiss Riddle (unregistered) on March 12th, 2007 @ 7:43 pm

    I’m most of the way through it (I’ve gotten as far as her arrival in Cuba) and agree: she’s no Bruce Chatwin, but it’s a fun read.

    I don’t think the connection with Austin is quite that tenuous. She goes into Austin co-op culture quite a bit by way of explaining her youthful preconceptions about post-socialist Russia — in a way she makes it sound like a nice vegetarian co-op in Austin may be the last bastion of socialist idealism on the planet. (More serious are the parallels with her family’s heritage as serfs on the King Ranch in south Texas.)

  2. ttrentham (unregistered) on March 13th, 2007 @ 8:56 am

    I’m nearly through the section on China myself. Austin figures into this book more prominently than is some of the past selections, doesn’t it?

    Spring 2006: The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea
    Spring 2005: Writing Austin’s Lives by Metro Austin Residents
    Spring 2004: All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
    Spring 2003: Holes by Louis Sachar
    Spring 2002: Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

  3. Rantor (unregistered) on March 13th, 2007 @ 9:36 am

    Way more connection, really, than any of the others, I think, although still not a lot. And it’s true that the most expansive references to Austin relate to co-op living. Sachar lives here, doesn’t he? Some of these books I’d read before their mayoral selection, but I have read them all except Cormac McC’s opus, because I just don’t like his stuff.

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