On the plane from Seattle to Buffalo -- a very long flight -- I read Sara Gruen's NEW YORK TIMES best seller, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. This is a lovely book. The writing is spare and clean, the characters complex, their stories gripping. It takes place in a third-rate traveling circus during the 1930's, an often sleazy and brutal world of exploitation of men, women, and animals. Young Jacob Jankowski, who is supposed to be earning a veterinarian's degree at Cornell and living a middle-class Jewish life, finds himself in this milieu through a series of accidents, and is forced by circumstances to stay. The book alternates present-day Jacob, now 93 and in a nursing home, with his memories of seventy years earlier. The result is poignant and shocking both, and the book's ending is one of the sweetest surprises I can remember reading in a long time. Highly recommended.
This book is not the sort that spawns merchandising tie-ins -- but you never know. I, for instance, possess a Jane Austen action figure, an object that would undoubtedly surprise the original Jane. The action figure sits upon my bookshelf, in front of the six Austen novels and other books about them. Usually Jane stands there proudly alone. Lately, though, I have been waking up to find her menaced by a variety of alien figures, such as this one from ALIEN:
Or perhaps she's being not menaced but embraced. Of so, please take note, Jack -- Jane is not that kind of girl!