Friday, July 31, 2009

The Baker's Apprentice by Judith Ryan Hendricks

There is something magical about discovering a new author.  Wandering into a room, finding a book you long ago purchased sitting on a bookshelf full of old reads and starting anew. For that is what I do with each new book, I start anew, I dive in, I feel a sense of discovery, of excitement of surprise lurking at every turn.  I can't explain why I am a compulsive reader. So much of my life has been spent with my nose in a book, my mind working, my eyes lingering on turns of phrases, artful sentences, passages that emit emotion.  On a reader's high at the moment, I feel sorry for those who don't read. A woman at line in BandN said: "It really is a shame that I don't read more. I just never have the time."  "I page through magazines," she explained, offering up an excuse, feeling embarrassed. I told her: "that counts too," but a minute later I was decrying modern magazines, fed up with the endless wasted words detailing the lives of Jon and Kate, the Octomom, Angelina Jolie. It's all so unimportant.  It doesn't count.  Reading is magic.  I think that is why I loved teaching middle school English.  It allowed me the opportunity to dispel small doses of the magic. I got to regal a classroom with a magical passage. I got to introduce reluctant readers to a book that helped them fall down the well, into the world of a reader. My students knew I would buy them books.  My mother never denied me books as a child; I couldn't deny them either.

And there is even more magic in the world, as discovering an old book written by a prolific author allows one to reach out and surround themselves with a full tome.  I was ecstatic to discover Bread Alone had a sequel. I longed to know more about Wynter.

Defying the law of sequels, I think I liked The Baker's Apprentice even more than Bread Alone.  I suppose it is futile to compare them, for it is the backstory of Bread Alone that supports The Baker's Apprentice, letting it stand supported as a rich story. Tabling all of that, the continuation of Wynter's story expanded to include so many surprises.  The cast of characters was expanded and I found myself connected to a whole slew of characters.  I loved the community and family that was formed at The Queen Anne's Bakery.  I loved watching Wynter mentor her apprentice, Tyler, a young woman with blue hair screaming for help and guidance.  I loved being provided with glimpses of Mac's perspective as well as viewing the letters he penned Wynter.  I whole-heartedly feel that this sequel was a necessity: the story just got so much richer and fuller and more layered.  In many ways the book ends with out a complete ending.  But it felt right for things to be left the way they did. I loved the final scene, even as a part of me mourned the fact that there were no more pages to continue to regal me.

One of the factors that added to my love of this story was the setting and time period. I have always been rather intrigued by the Pacific Northwest and Seattle in particular. I can imagine myself in such a location. Beyond that, I love that this story takes place in the late 80s and early 90s. It is a world where mix tapes still reigned supreme, where the internet and the tabloids were less omni present, and local cafes weren't places filled to the brim with lit up computer screens.  Individuals sat in bars reading, as they sipped their wine.  It's a world I would have loved to inhabit. It is also a world populated by people who came of age in the 70s. I find those individuals fascinating.

I entered pure flow when reading this book. I was basically unaware of my surroundings (oh the life of a student on summer break, done with work!) - and just sat reading for hours on end, something I do way too often, but something I can't stop.

Futzing around on the internet, I have learned Hendricks plans to write a third story about Wynter.  I know I will continue to love learning about the lives of CM, Mac, Tyler, Ellen, and the rest of Wynter's cast of characters.  I am also deeply excited to read the rest of Hendrick's books.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bread Alone by Judith R. Hendricks

I found this book on my bookshelf at my parents' house.  It is one of the few books I haven't actually read.  I don't know why I didn't read it years ago. I absolutely adored the story.  I am not a baker or a chef, but I love people who have a passion for such activities. Wynter's love for baking bread made me want to understand the process more.  But I still can't imagine reading non-fiction  books about baking or cooking, but more power to those who do!

I wonder if reading about individuals who are starting over, and seeking their place and niche in the world inherently  leads to others questioning their own path.  I can't consider this personally as I consider my own path daily even without such fictional prodding. I loved reading about Wynter's delayed adolescence - that is how I am defining it -- her attempt to find herself and make peace with all the waves of experiences and emotions that are trying to overpower her.  She is an incredibly realistic woman, one who is emerging from a marriage that allowed her to ignore the fact that she hadn't found her niche.  She taught high school for a handful of years and sold Real Estate for a year. She hated both. So she easily subsumed her interests and became the corporate wife her husband desired.  Seven years later she is forced to to create a new version of herself, and like many that have come before, she proves to be strong and resilient, capable of so many things she had never considered when she was cocooned in a beautiful house in Los Angeles. 

This book made me think of a Washington Post article from last week. Matt Crawford has a doctorate in political philosophy from UChicago, and yet he recently penned a surprise bestseller titled Shop Class as Soulcraft.  He is quoted as saying:  
There's this false dichotomy out there between intellectual work and manual work.  The popular image of the plumber is just the butt crack, not that of a skilled tradesman who sets his own hours, figures out complex problems on the fly and probably earns more than most of his clients. Plus, there's that satisfaction of imposing one's will and intellect on the physical world, to immediate effect.
 He also states:
The issue is not so much whether it is manual or physical labor, but whether your work demands use of your personal skills and judgment. If it doesn't, then you're on an assembly line, no matter how crisply starched your shirt is.

All of this is ruminating in my head as I face my own unclear future, but it also relates directly to the life of Wynter, a woman who finds meaning in making bread.  Some may consider it the work of the unskilled or, unintelligent, but it clearly brings Wynter a great deal of happiness. Isn't that what we all want for our children and friends?  Work that brings about happiness and fulfillment?  I know I do.  Sometimes I think we all get sucked into the dominant mentality.  A woman I taught with basically removed herself from regular society. She took time to paint and do yoga. She found herself in the brown earth of New Mexico.  In some ways I envy her, even as I recognize that I am not capable of living completely off the beaten path.

My experiences in shop class and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity (burned my hair in the woodburner, learned I am not as handy with a hammer as one should be) and in the kitchen have proved that I will never be a car mechanic, construction worker or bread baker.  Part of me wishes I was less cerebral and more capable of finding happiness in simple tasks, and grueling physical labor.  But, swirling through my head are other ideas as well.  It's isn't just about labor; but making a conscious choice to do something for the right reasons. I will file that way in the back of my mind.

I just found out that there is a sequel to Bread Alone. And I am so excited to read the next chapter in Wynter's life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Romantics by Galt Niederhoffer

My first thought upon finishing this book: thank g-d I didn't go to Yale! I can't imagine having college "friends" like those depicted in the novel. At the same time, I think the book realisticly encapsulates the dynamics between a clique of college friends. In my own group of college friends, much like the clique in the novel, there are two sets of married couples who dated since college as well as a variety of other connections that span the group (including those who are now married). Our "incest" is pretty humorous, but nowhere as lined up and all encompassing as those in this novel.  The Romantics also realistically portrays how ties change post college. In this instance there are two married couples, learning new parts of their partners, and two engaged couples, with one female paired with a newcomer (what a strange position to be within the group!). While the individuals in the group are still connected and share in one another's lives, there is a distance that has developed now that they no longer live together and partake in the same activites as one another.

The novel is in many ways a satire. There is a strong sense of humor laced throughout the book. For example, as Janet Maslin points out in her NYT review, "one of the rich, adrift Yale chums in the novel never quite managed to apply to film school after graduation. But he did buy expensive screenwriting software, read part of its manual and write an unfinished script 'about a clique of college friends who reunite at a funeral.'" Niederhoffer understands that this isn't a new genre; and yet she approaches it in a different way then those who have come before and after. In the last couple of months I have read both A Fortunate Age and Commencement - two other novels that involve college friends reuniting for a wedding - and yet The Romantics stood apart as a totally different perspective on reuniting friends. I didn't draw any parallels between those two books (which my reviews show I greatly enjoyed) and The Romantics while enmeshed in this entertaining story.

Maslin writes: "Six years after college, the old friends gather to dissect one another’s successes and failures amid the rocky, picturesque tranquillity of this Maine island. All of them are sharp-eyed enough to know whose family “landed on the wrong side of Plymouth Rock” and who has been favored by fortune." As in The Commencement and A Fortunate Age, the friends are gathered together for the wedding of a college friend (in this particular case two college friends).  The maid of honor is unethused for the wedding, not because she cannot believe one of her friends is getting married (this is the case among the girls in A Fortunate Age), but because she still loves the groom, and has a major love-hate relationship with the bride.

The Romantics is more cynical than romantic. It offers a somewhat frightening view of marriage and twenty-something life. I found myself oddly detached from the characters. I didn't care for any of them. They all seemed self-centered and unaware of the larger problems of the world.  And yet I still cared about the resolution of the novel. I suppose I felt the most affinity for Laura, the outsider, and lone Jewess in the group, the maid of honor suffering through a painful weekend.  But I didn't empathize with her as much as I found her the most interesting. Overall, I find this book emotes more laughs and questions than emotions.  

After finishing the novel, I did some research on the author (as I tend to do). I always want the extras....  Ms. Niederhoffer's own story  is almost more fascinating than the book itself. I need to read her first novel which is somewhat based on her own life.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Last Summer of Her Other Life by Jean Reynolds Page

Yet another book about family secrets - I am on a roll with selecting my favorite types of books.  This book focuses on Jules, a thirty-nine year old woman who finds out she is pregnant shortly before returning home to North Carolina to care for her dying mother. I must note: there is something about parenting in the wake of the loss of a parent that seems to beguile me. Individuals today have children later in life thereby increasing the likelihood that they will parent without the hands on guidance of their own parents.  And yet the idea of parenting as an orphan still seems unnatural. I suppose in modern society the sandwich generation is expanding and thus parenting both parents and children is becoming the norm.

Back to the book: Jules, is a sound operator, an LA woman, a protected daughter. And while she  is thirty-nine she is still not fully grown. She has been protected by her mother and brother and even her high school boyfriend and doesn't know the truth about her father and his death.  Furthermore, although she has a steady job and pays taxes, Jules recognizes that she has not truly emerged from adolescence as evidenced by the fact that she has chosen to live in Los Angeles - a city where individuals who do not want to grow up reside.  

In North Carolina, Jules is forced to confront some very adult realities, and she emerges a stronger individual. Her life is dramatically altered shortly after her mother's death, as a local teen accuses her of "inappropriate sexual conduct."  It is fascinating to see the consequences of such accusations, especially since the reader knows Jules did not partake in any such activities with the accuser -- a boy she cannot even identify.  Soon the story spins into a much more complicated tale - that of a boy who is clearly suffering.  Jules, and her brother Lincoln become further involved as they seek out answers to try to help the young boy.  

There are a lot of twists and turns in the book. At first it seems to set up a romance between Jules and her high school boyfriend, the son of a man who died in the same boating accident as her father.  But Jules also seeks out the attention of Walt, the uncle of her accuser (a boy she crushed upon in high school) who is now married.  And while Jules's status as an adopted child never seems to bring any drama to the story, the reveal of her brother's parentage leads to a great deal of anguish and discovery.

This book offers up a refreshing view on family and truly shows that motherhood has nothing to do with blood.  And yet it also shows the absolute unraveling of more than one family due to the poor choices and questionable behavior of one individual.  It is more of a mystery than one would expect from the cover. And all together it spins an engaging story that rivets the reader and raises a great deal of questions on a variety of topics.

My reading was further enriched by Reynolds Page's insights at the end of the novel. She writes: "I see my books as being completed in a new way each time someone reads one of them," and "I see writing books as a kind of collaboration with the reader."  I love this idea and am going to spend some time further pondering these insights.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

(Acknowledgements: Thanks R.L. for letting me read your early copy!)

I have enjoyed every single one of Tropper's books and I consider him one of "my authors." But I think I can easily proclaim that this is his best work yet.  I love that this story revolves around a dysfunctional family (my favorite topic to read about!), and that it approaches the experience of a death in the family through a unique lens.

At various points in the novel, I stopped to savour Tropper's language.  His writing is infused with humor at every turn, and yet the flow of his sentences are  incredibly poetic.  Every chapter opening earns its way into the book.  It all begins: "'Dad's dead,' Wendy says offhandedly, like it's happened before, like it happens every day."  With the offhanded comment of an unfazed sister, we tumble into the Foxman's family's affairs.

At many moments, the book is simply the protagonist, Judd, telling his own story, speaking directly to you with his eyes bowed and his full emotion stuck in his throat.  His voice is so real, his character so developed. We all know Judd Foxman.  He is the Jewish Every Twenty-Something Man.  He explains to the reader: 

Love made us partners in narcism, and we talked ceaselessly about how close we were, 
how perfect our connection was, like we were the first people in history to ever get it exactly right. We were that couple for a while, nauseatingly impervious assholes, busy staring each other's eyes while everyone else was trying to have a good time.  When I think about how stupid we were, how obstinately clueless about the realities that awaited us, I just want to back to that skinny, cocksure kid with his bloated hear and perennial erection, and kick his teeth in.

Judd is pure male.  He is constantly thinking about sex.  And while the book is graphic I wasn't put off at all. 

Tropper has such a keen eye for the absurdities and complexities of modern life.  His depictions of Shiva calls are spot on and hilarious. His creation of a mother who penned the seminal books on childcare with a brood of children full of problems is both realistic and wildly entertaining.  His introduction of a shock jock boss (named Wade Boulanger!), and a rabbi whose childhood nickname was Boner, as well as his inclusion of miscarriages, infidelity, dog maulings, late in life lesbianism, a family friend who was severely brain damaged by a college fight all make the book incredibly entertaining and so refreshingly real.

There is so much more I want to say about this novel. But I will just say this: I highly recommend it!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Family History by Dani Shapiro

On the back of this book is a blurb from the Detroit Free Press: "One of those books most readers will finish in one sitting... because it is so intense you can't take a break. In gripping, moving prose, Shapiro reminds us of any family's essential fragility, but also of the tenacious strength of love."

Thank you Detroit Free Press for capturing the essence of this book so concisely! The art of crafting a blurb is beyond me; I am too wordy.

As for reading the book in one sitting, I did. (But  I tend to read most books in one sitting). Having read this book shortly after In A Country of Mothers,  I felt even more connected to the psychological drama and the focus on family dysfunction.  I am beginning to believe that any book with a family at its center cannot be a disappointment, although I secretly know this is not the case.

This book sucker punches the reader. It is harrowing and sad. The young daughter the parents know and love disappears--and is replaced with someone who confounds them and dramatically alters their family in irrevocable ways.  There is a sense in this book that the parents did everything right, and yet their child has turned into a very messed up teenager.  No one is to blame of course.  But it is hard to "watch" such loving individuals suffer through such family crises.    The reader wonders: why is this happening?  What explains this change for the worse?  And will she come out of this situation? Will Rachel and Ned and Kate's lives ever be stitched together?

I love the way Shapiro uses language. She has a wonderful ability to create a full scene, one that invites the reader to truly visualize the settings of her novels.  She is also adept at building  a story, beginning in the present, moving backwards and then forwards. The story alternates between the present and past in a way that allows the reader to swim around and pick up information slowly, only providing them with the full story shortly before the crescendo of the novel.  Shapiro is also skilled at her use of perspective. We see the world through the eyes of Rachel Jensen. We feel her despair and confusion, her longing for the past.  And we keep our fingers crossed that things will turn around. There is a real immediacy to the novel.  The powerful emotions Jensen experiences move beyond the page.

This book shows how quickly a family can unravel, and yet how long it takes to try to resolve the issues that led to this unraveling. In some ways it is the cautionary tale of a parent's worst nightmare.  And it is also a beautifully penned story, a full fleshed story with vivid secondary characters and a real sense of the complications, mundanity and drama of real life.

Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

I am sad I missed Jennifer Weiner's reading in NYC. She is hysterical in person!  Luckily, I was still able to buy and finish the book the day it came out.  I personally found this book to be incredibly different than Weiner's past works.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, just interesting.  This book does not take place in Philly (most of her previous books do) but instead Chicago. The book is also somewhat less snarky.  In somewhat traditional Weiner fashion there is one formerly overweight character.  So I suppose in that regard Best Friends Forever isn't a huge departure from Weiner's oeuvre.

The book is about two former Best Friends: Addie Downs and Valerie Adler.  Valerie, a meteorologist, finds herself in trouble after she acts questionably after  her high school reunion. She shows up on Addie's doorstep looking for assistance. The two wind up embarking on an adventure of sorts, true to the rhythms of their unique friendship, with Valerie leading Addie out of her overly ordered life and into various sticky situations. The book captures the sense of horror involved in returning to a high school reunion. Many of the former high schoolers individuals find themselves altered (one previous bad boy is a minister), others are still overcoming the traumas of high school (I would put Addie and Valerie in this category).  Both Addie and Valerie have experienced harrowing experiences that have shaped them as individuals and altered the friendship they severed after nine years of best friendship.  The novel is in some ways a mystery - albeit one where the reader knows more than the characters. We are introduced to a Chief of Police who is trying to explain the incidence of blood and a belt in the parking lot of a small town country club.

There is so much to relate to in this book.  I got a kick out of the fact that Addie's parents met at summer camp as mine did as well.  Additionally, I loved the way the story was grounded in history.  Addie's father is a Vietnam vet who is unable to return to the life path he had charted before combat.  Valerie's mother is a hippy of sorts.  The portrayal of high school, full of traumas and celebrations is realistic and entertaining.

The pace of this novel was excellent.  It switches perspective and includes the viewpoint of the detective investigating the blood left behind in the parking lot of the Country Club where the reunion is held.  I think its excellent that Weiner has shown she can write different genres, hopefully this will silence all of the critics who try to squarely place her in the "chick lit" category.

In a Country of Mothers by A.M. Holmes

I loved A.M. Holmes memoir, The Mistress' Daughter. I can remember sitting on the floor of BandN at 86th and Park, reading the whole book in its entirety.  Holmes story is fascinating; she was adopted, and eventually reunites with her biological parents, inviting into her life a great deal of chaos, manipulation, drama and secrecy.  I particularly enjoyed the fact that Holmes included a great deal of research on both her biological and adopted family. She found records of her grandparents' marriages.  I remember going home and deciding I needed to find out more about my own family history.

I was super excited to read fiction by Holmes; and this novel did not disappoint.  It is in many ways a psychological thriller, as engaging as my favorite psychological thrillers (written by Elizabeth Brundage).  I love the timeless quality of this novel. It was written in 1993, and so there is very little mention of the technology that currently dominates our lives.  And yet it is a truly modern novel.  Part of this novel focuses on a twenty-something trying to figure out her life. She is a witty film student and assistant who has a knack for charming people and making them laugh.  The first chapter begins with Jody Goodman calling a shrink because she is unsure if she should attend film graduate school (even though she is already enrolled).  "Hi, this is Jody Goodman, you don't know me. I'm having some trouble making career decisions."  I was immediately drawn in.  I will say it aloud myself: "I am having some trouble making career decisions."  The other main character Claire is a forty-something shrink who is still overcoming her past, as well as having problems with her preteen son and her family life with a husband and two sons.  Claire becomes Jody's therapist and they develop a deep intimacy  until the relationship extends beyond normal professional boundaries.  

Jody, was in therapy before, as she is an adopted child who was adopted shortly after her parent's biological son died.  Her life is in many ways defined by this huge loss, much the way the daughter in A Widow for One Year is affected by the deaths of the brothers she never met (and the empty hooks where all their photos once resided).  Jody, has a magnetic and endearing personality and people in the film industry are drawn to her.  Claire is drawn to Jody as well, especially because she gave a baby girl up for adoption in the same city (Washington D.C.)  and year that Jody was born.  Claire begins to be obsessed with Jody and believes she is the daughter she gave up for adoption.   There is an element of suspense: Is Jody really Claire's daughter? Could such a coincidence occur?  I will let you discover the answer yourself. I will say the situation develops to an amazing crescendo.  

This novel raises so many questions, about adoption, and family, about the real value of therapy, about the lives of therapists, about taking risks and about desire.  I highly recommend this book.  

The Castaways by Elin Hilderbrand

I used to be a huge Hilderbrand fan.  Upon discovering and devouring The Love Season, I became a dedicated reader and so did my best friend and my mother. But I found her last book (A Summer Affair) to be incredibly disappointing.  The Castaways was a compelling read but it still lacked some of the magic of Hilderbrand's earlier works.

This novel, like all of Hilderbrand's novels, takes place in Nantucket. This novel focuses on a group of friends: four couples with a series of connections. Andrea, who is married to the police chief, formerly dated Jeffery, the husband of Delilah.  Tess, Andrea's cousin, is having an affair with wealthy Addison Wheeler (known as Wheeler the Dealer), the husband of Phoebe.  There is also a deep friendship/flirtatious relationship between Tess's husband Greg, and Delilah.  As you can already tell this is quite the soap opera. The book begins with the announcement of the drowning deaths of Greg and Tess, who went sailing to celebrate their twelfth  anniversary. Their deaths ricochet throughout the group, and as we learn about the unique way each character is grieving, we also learn a great deal of the backstory behind this incestuous group.

The story alternates through each character's perspective, so we are able to see first hand why Addison falls for Tess, how Jeffrey feels about Andrea, what lead Phoebe to become addicted to pills, how deeply Andrea and her family are affected by her own grief.  There is a great deal of suspense built into the book, and each character is well-fleshed out but I still couldn't help but miss the evocative language, and effortless storytelling found in The Love Season.

Children of the Waters by Carleen Brice

This was the second book I purchased for my long train ride. I had read a series of positive reviews of Brice's first novel, which I now plan on reading.  This book tackles so many interesting ideas and experiences.  It is a truly modern novel, discussing topics such as interracial dating, treatment of young black males by the police, black male identity,  single parenting, raising children who are mixed race, fundamentalist Christianity, adoption and what truly determines a person's racial identity.  Few authors discuss such topics so insightfully and poignantly (at least few authors I have read).  Furthermore, one of the main characters in the novel is adopted but not told by her parents. This intrigues me as my mother has consistently said that she would never tell a child they were adopted -- this fact is made inherently more interesting by the fact that she is a psychologist (thankfully, we have pictures of my mother pregnant with me and my brothers so we know she isn't lying to us!).  The book also includes so much about a wide variety of topics I know very little about: veterinarians, Native American rituals, holistic healing, Lupus, Buddhism, and being mixed race.  I feel I learned a great deal from reading this book and that isn't always the case with fiction.

Brice creates such layered and real characters.  We get a sense of each character's thoughts, emotions, and feelings even though Billie and Trish are focused on the most. We see each character as a full-bodied individual. No detail is left out.  Like real people, all of the characters are flawed. Nick is unwilling to be a parent and scared of truly letting Billie inside his head. Billie is stubborn, OCD, controlling and unhappy to find out she is mixed race.  At times she is downright mean to her newly discovered sister. Trish is somewhat simple-minded and overbearing towards her son.  Will, goes from shoplifting to extreme piousness, believing deeply in the preaching of a corrupt priest.  Billie's adopted parents withhold the truth from her.

Overall, I was captivated by this book.  It is yet another example of a well-written, unique story written about a complex and slightly-dysfunctional family.  One of my favorite types of reads!

Returning from Delinquency

I have been terrible about posting lately and have no valid excuse.  I have been reading a great deal of non fiction and have some new insight on why non fiction is so powerful. In the meantime, I am returning to normal posting.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Beach House by Georgia Bockoven

In college, I took a course titled Contemporary American Writers, in which we studied the complete works of three American "writers" (they were not all novelists, or even "writers" in the most traditional sense of the word) and the focus on each author culminated with a three hour session with these writers. During my year in this class, one of the writers was the venerable Susan Sontag.  I can remember that Sontag talked about her love of reading and the fact that she hoped to read every day of her life, including the day she died.  I can remember relating to those words even though I clearly understood that Sontag did not read anything low brow. I am sure she would have a great deal to say about chick lit and the usual fare in women's fiction, as well as the fact that our society is so under read.  I am thinking of this story as I grapple with my own tastes in books. I read an account recently of a Phd student in literature who said the program took the joy out of reading for her. I cannot imagine that.  I know I haven't read enough of the classical works of English literature.  And yet, here I am reviewing beach reading. I am not embarrassed. One of  my friends from college said I taught her to be comfortable with reading chick lit.  I have never been ashamed of my reading interests, and I suppose I am not going to start being embarrassed now.  And yet, if I were to consider writing my own novel, I would want it to be literary as well as entertaining to read.
I picked up this book and another as my reading fare for a 3 and half hour train ride.  I had read most of the selection at the small bookstore in the station.  And here is the wonderful thing about this novel: it completely drew me in and entertained me greatly.  I guess my whole point is that sometimes all a reader needs is an entertaining book that makes you keep reading. I love beautiful language, but it isn't always necessary.