Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I Clearly Don't Know Myself

Well, I don't know what I was thinking, but I finished it.

Overall, I'm not too sorry. It was a bit of a slog there, but I don't think it was a real misdirection of the author's intention. In fact, I think that 100 pages shorter, the book would have been very good. I could have used a lot less of Nan's point of view--it was the weakest-written portion of the book (everything she thinks is spelled out and repeated and simplified), and adds the least to the story. Sara's viewpoint doesn't add very much, either, but she gives a dash of perspective on the family, since she's the most unlike the Setons. There's only a dash of Sara--there's WAY too much Nan.

Anyway, I did it. And then today we went to the Middletown library used book store. I got Inventing the Abbots, short stories by Sue Miller (I've never seen the movie), The Rapture of Canaan, which was the first Oprah book I ever read, and pretty good, and another Kazuo Ishiguro book (though I don't have The Remains of the Day yet).

But before I start those, I'm going to reread Never Let Me Go for book club. Next goal--go!

Friday, December 23, 2005

To Be or Not To Be

Yeah, this book (Before You Know Kindness) is just way too heavy-handed. Nan, the grandmother, likes having a therapist for a daughter-in-law because she's good with people, "even if sometimes it made them all more comfortable discussing their feelings than she'd like." Big flashing neon sign around how private and cool this character is? What about this one; she asks her son if he regrets leaving private practice to become a public defender. He says no, people need him in his new job and he likes that. "She found herself smiling because her son was happy...but also because he hadn't allowed their conversation to grow intimate with the sort of disclosure that just might have made both of them uncomfortable."

I don't need any more info about this woman, thanks. But in every passage about her--there are about seven characters the story follows--I get this poing HAMMERED home. Enough, already.

So I'm in a position that I find pretty rarely--I can't decide whether or not to finish the book. I'm on vacation, so my supply's a little limited--a couple of YA novels, a short Thurber book, C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Actually, I could and ought to get to rereading the book club book. But this isn't quite bad enough to give up without a qualm.

I think I'll switch over. If I find myself coming back to Kindness, I will, but otherwise, I'm going to leave it up to my gut. It's good for so little else.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hello Kathy

Just to bug Kathy, this entry is all about her.

First, Jodi Picoult. Kathy recommended her, and for someone I've never read, a whole bunch of her books are suddenly on my "To Read" list. This is partly because, looking at the Amazon descriptions, half of them look interesting, and half of them sort of don't; I think that the family dramas sound less interesting than the more complex stories. They sound like they all center a bit around court battles and family issues. I've picked My Sister's Keeper, about a girl who was conceived as a bone marrow donor for her sister and sues her parents for medical emancipation, The Pact, about two teenagers who appear to have had a suicide pact, though only one of them is dead, and Plain Truth, as it is about Amish. I have a thing for Amish in the same way I have a thing for nuns.

Which, by the way, Kathy, I would like to specifically recommend The Nun's Story to you. I don't know if nuns are up your alley, but this book has the rich description and mediation coupled with a pretty engaging plot that I think would make it a recommendation. Also, just about my favorite book. It's by Kathryn Hulme--check it out.

Kathy is also the one who pointed out something that I was just beginning to notice about the book I’m reading, which she just finished. Before You Know Kindness, by Chris Bohjalian. I’ve decided he’s hit or miss. The Midwives was wonderful, and The Law of Similars was worth reading. But this book just drags and drags. I can only handle so many pages of closely observed family life and character studies, touched with some very heavy-handed characterization (he’s vegan, no one understands why. I get it.) before I start to wonder when the plot described on the flap is going to start. And it sounds like the answer is: it doesn’t exactly start--it happens, suddenly, about a third of the way through the book, and then the rest of the book is closely observed family life and character study in the aftermath of this information. I’m not convinced I’m going to finish this book; life’s too short.

That is all for now, I suppose. In conclusion, hi Kathy!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Let It Snow

Why is the weather always miserable when I have to go to work and not when I'm just planning to stay home? Tomorrow will be gross, Saturday will be lovely. I really should feel the opposite way--let it snow while I'm stuck in the office, let me go for a walk on Saturday. Somehow, no. I'd love to have an excuse to stay in, be lazy, wrap, and most important write Christmas cards. I've already pared the list down to those I don't see often. If I've wished you a happy holiday verbally, chances are you're not getting a card.

Cages of Glass, Flowers of Time. A touching story of a girl who's been abandoned and abused. I read it a few times as a child, but we'll have to see how it goes as an adult. I think it may be a bit melodramatic. Still, your childhood loves can get away with a lot.

I've just finished How to Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen. People who think that acknowledging their flaws makes them into virtues kind of irritate me. People who think the things they love and care about are the only indicators of the state of humanity irritate me. I was irritated many times in this book. His articles that were researched and about specific topics--the Chicago Postal Service, the history of the tobacco industry--were very interesting and enjoyable; he's smart and he can write. At one point I got so angry at him, I was just about to give him up as a hopeless coot; he was wailing about how the demise of rotary phones signaled the end of worthwhile civilization and literature as we know it. But then he cuts away and explains how he'd written that essay in a very dark period, and goes on to explain how obsolecense really guarantees the future of Americal literature.

Mostly, I just think he's hopelessly pretentious. I'm pretty full of bitterness and judgement, but this guy is too darned much.

Friday, December 09, 2005

What a Wonderful World

It's miserable and snowy. I'm frantically scrabbling to get my work done, and I'll be here late even though they're closing the building at 3. I don't know how I'm going to get to this party tonight, or if driving is even safe. I have shopping, Christmas cards, and wedding stuff to worry about. Plus, I'm working offsite for part of next week, and things are piling up. Tearing out my hair, weeping bitterly.

BUT...the Boston Public Library has ten copies of a very rare Young Adult novel called Cages of Glass, Flowers of Time that I loved when I was in middle school. You can't buy it for less than $30 used these days, and most copies are over $100. But I have the BPL, so I'm all set.

What a lovely world we live in. Happy weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


So we had book club last week--Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood, excellent choice. It was a lot of fun, but not as book-clubby as it might have been. We've drifted a little from talking about the book with the same depth we used to, but I'm not sure exactly how to fix that.


Also, no one else appears to have agreed with me in taking the revealed "solution" to the problem of Grace's identity at face value. The book presents a picture of some kind of multiple personality disorder (Dissociative Identity Disorder, to those of use who still have a psych geek living in our souls). Thinking about my psychology education, her behavior and life story don't exactly jibe with how science records this, but as fiction, I bought it hook line and sinker. In reality, DID pretty much only ever arises from prolonged, severe sexual abuse at a very young age. And the "blackouts," periods where the main personality doesn't remember what happened because one of the others was busy using the body, (if I remember correctly) usually result in the person being missing time. But these technical details are not the kind of thing to cause a hiccup in my suspension of disbelief.

Thinking about it in the meeting, I could see that this explanation was much more pat than I would expect from her--much too tidy a solution that allowed you to feel much too certain of the moral conclusion of the story. But when I was reading, I was there with it. Jeremiah was the character through whose eyes I saw things, and I think he was surprised to find the demon in his friend.

Also and chiefly, Grace had nothing to gain by faking this. Most people thought it was an ambiguous question--was she faking, revealing the truth, was Mary Whitney lying? But why would anyone fake this? Why would she be one person outside of hypnosis and then, just at the moment when she might be freed, become another person?

Well, end of spoilers. I got the next book club pick (yay!) and I chose Never Let Me Go. I'm sure I've already mentioned this lovely book by Kazuo Ishiguro, and I generally lean away from picking something I've read, but I thought he would be better than Chris Bohjalian (so many to read: Trans-Sister Radio, Buffalo Soldiers, Before You Know Kindness) as a book club choice. I also liked that this was a book with a sci-fi premise, but not a sci fi plot or theme or feel. I've developed an interest in the intersection between traditional people and "genre" work--Liala and comics, for example, Katie and Young Adult fiction. And now, literati and a story that just might blow their minds.


Monday, December 05, 2005

Yeah, Some Unicorn

I'll tell you, if Sara hadn't made an "eh" face when I asked how The Lady and the Unicorn was, I would probably still be reading it. I would have said to myself, "but I like Tracy Chevalier!" And I'd have stuck it out, if not to the bitter end, then way past the guy who refers to sex as "plowing," the first person female narrator who is supposed to sound like a teenager who's gushing in her diary but really sounds like she's been hired as the narrator, and the very fact that all these French characters for some reason interject French into their conversation, making it look like they're speaking English as they go about their daily lives and resorting to French only when they can't remember, how you say? our language.

Ugh. Thank you, Sara, for liberating me from this awful book.

Now, I'm reading A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott of all people. I picked it up out of curiosity (too racy to be published in her lifetime), expecting it to read like an old, overwritten melodrama. Omigod, it's so good! I'm enjoying every minute of it, even though, as Mike points out, the title gives away the ending. Its raciness is based on the fact of a false marriage, and, I personally would guess, on the fact that the heroine continues to love the bad guy even after she finds out how evil he is. And he's evil! But charming! It's like watching an old Errol Flynn movie--actually, it's got the whole Gone with the Wind idea of people who might or might not be Good, and the fact that there's a difference between being not particularly virtuous and being bad.

I'm so excited that this book is so great. But I'm almost done, and I'm not sure where to go next.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Turkey-Based Ailments

I don't suppose you can blame Thanksgiving for my cough, but I'm casting an accusing eye at the dry air and cigarette smoke I ran into at the homestead.

For some reason, unlike a normal trip home, this one resulted in almost no reading at all. It might have been that Mike was there and retreating into a novel seemed like abandoning him. Or we could point to Marsha's being on her miserable way back to her new home 500 miles away. Mostly I think I was just lazy and the TV was on all the time and I'm not really in the middle of anything good.

Usually when I'm home for a holiday I read about fifty Babysitter's Club books from the collection still under my bed. Or reread some other old favorites. But I've just finished a Good Parts tour of the Clan of the Cave Bear series, and that seemed like more than enough for now. I might have to reread Butterfly sometime soon, though--now THAT'S trashy but good.

Anyway, I did just finish The Final Solution by Michael Chabon (slight and mostly about how much it sucks to be old, but not bad) and My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber (funny, funny). I'm going to pound away at A Long Fatal Love Chase, which is not bad but kind of archaic, if you know what I mean. Sometimes old books (Austen) are as fresh or better than fresh. Sometimes they're good in spite of being antique. This Louisa May Alcott book is very much a melodrama in the old-fashioned sense.

And The Lady and the Unicorn. I'd like to know what people think of Tracy Chevalier, because I loved The Girl with the Pearl Earring and I liked The Virgin Blue okay, but I still, somehow, don't think I like her. And this book....it doesn't help that I dislike the main character and mistrust the somewhat contrived seeming plot that's opening up. And I'm on page 30.

Humph. Okay, now you're up to date.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Original Neurosis

When I'm having an awful and frantic day at work, I often find the Boston Public Library website to be soothing and calming. Just going there, logging in, and looking at the list of books I'm planning to read gives me the tiny "Calgon, take me away!" moment that I need at 2:30 when the ftp server isn't cooperating and I realize that I haven't updated my revised budgets or schedules in any of our numerous databases and spreadsheets in, oh, six months or so.

But it just wasn't working today. I think I've figured out why; for the first time in a long time, I don't have anything on reserve. There's nothing that needs checking up on, no queue counter to watch tick down.

I'll admit, I'm actually considering putting a bestseller on reserve just so I have something soothing to watch. An Oprah book is always good, and Linden recommended A Million Little Pieces (though I listened to a sample of the audiobook, which was not very appealing). I'd probably be at least 150 on a waiting list for that book, and I could watch anxiously as it ticked down for the next three months.

And this, believe it or not, would be designed to make me feel better.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I Wish You Much Joy of the Worm

Kathy points out that I read a lot of books that I don't seem to like. I wouldn't have said that, but when I think about what I say about the books I read, I guess that's kind of true. I think it's a factor of a few things, though: one that I'm pretty critical. Even when I'm enjoying a book on one level, I'm often pretty aware of its flaws on other levels, and I hesitate to say something that might sound like a recommendation for a book that I would only recommend to someone with very specific tastes.

Another factor is definitely that I dabble. I pick up things that I don't necessarily expect to like--things I'm curious about without very high expectations, or books about things that I want to know more about, without a lot of hope or expectation for them as enjoyable literature. I checked out a book called Mothers Talking, which was a collection of short first person stories from moms. I had read that it was a little more honest about the hard parts than other books, but I stopped reading after about four chapters, because it was very Chicken Soup for the Soul. I read The Art of War by Sun Tzu, which was very interesting, and actually a pretty good read, but which I don't think I'd run out and recommend as hobby reading to anyone.

I guess I'm following my curiosity more than anything. This is one reason it's important to me to read a lot; if I didn't devote so much time to it, I wouldn't want to waste the time trying things that might fail, and I'd go for the easy pleasures--maybe challenging as literature, but not different or educational in the way I want them to be. If you gave me a choice between another 1500 year old Chinese treatise on war or the new Jonathan Safron Foer book, I can't honestly tell you which I'd choose. Probably the war book, actually.

I'm just looking for a different kind of challenge than most people, I think. And maybe it's not a literary one. I think that's okay with me.

Oh, and I gave up on Sex and the City. It was too gruesome.

Friday, November 11, 2005

So Incredibly Not a Novelization

If you like the TV show Sex and the City, you'll HATE the book! I've seen two episodes of the show, and it looks sweet and funny and character-centered. And yeah, it's blunt and graphic (I assume; I've only seen it in syndication on basic cable), but not as heartless, unromatic, and hopeless as this stuff.

Carrie Bradshaw, who is one of many "friends" who supplies the author with info for this nonfiction compilation of anecdotes, for example. In her second appearance in the book, she is in a fancy restaurant having lunch with friends. "She lit up her twentieth cigarette of day, and when the maitre d'hotel ran over and told her to put it out, she said, 'Why, I wouldn't dream of offending anyone.' Then she put the cigarette out on the carpet."

Is this the Carrie Bradshaw you know and love? No.

This book reinforces for me the fact that I would never wish to be a New Yorker. Or at least, a Manhattanite.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

What Jen Should Read

List compiled for Jen K D, but you can use it too, if you want. I'm going for a good fun-quality ratio in each book--so none of these books are just "good for you"--they're all enjoyable.

Shining Through, Susan Isaacs. This book is the most fun ever. The narrator, Linda, is funny and smart, but susceptible to bad choices--the kind you can understand. You get all the drama and gravity of World War II, along with a great office-gossip storyline.

Note, however, that this is Susan Isaacs' best book. So if you want to give her a try, I recommend starting with Lily White. It is, in my opinion, her second best, and that way you get to read both, but the second one is even better than the first, which is always a good way to do it.

His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman. The three books are actually called The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. You have to be willing to read YA fantasy novels, but these are so much more than that. It's about religion and its role in society, and science and the meaning of life, and it's very sophisticated. I cried and cried and cried. I can't wait to read them again.

Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro. He wrote The Remains of the Day, which I haven't read yet, and When We Were Orphans, which I'm reading now. (And by the way, what's with everyone's delusion that he's going to actually FIND his parents after 15 years?) Never Let Me Go was the first of his books that I read, and it was just lovely. He's so clear and uncomplicated, yet so very complex and personal. This is a book with a science fiction plot, but it is in no way a science fiction book. It's not the near future or an alternate reality. It's England, here and now, and it's about what makes us human.

The Midwives, Chris Bohjalian. I've been meaning to reread this, so I base this recommendation on my memory of how good this book is. Again, it's the best of his work. There isn't a lot to say about it; it's a coming of age story about a girl whose mother is a midwife who might or might not be in legal trouble. This author deals often with people whose lifestyles fall just between fringe and mainstream--homeopaths, dowsers, midwives--and his stories are often about people trying to find a place for these things in an "ordinary" worldview.

Which Lie Did I Tell?, William Goldman. Bill Goldman has written some of my favorite books (The Color of Light, The Princess Bride), but you're more likely to have seen his movies. He's a screenwriter, with credits like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All The President's Men, The Stepford Wives, and The Princess Bride. This book is part how-to for aspiring screenwriters, part memoir, part gossip-fest. He's got some very good insights (my favorite: In Hollywood, nobody knows anything. They like to pretend they can tell what will be a hit and what won't, but nobody understands how craft becomes magic), but his ability to tell a good anecdote and very conversational writing style really carry this book.

The Nun's Story, Kathryn Hulme. I will always recommend this, though it's not up everyone's alley. It's a very internal, quiet look at the life of a nun from the time she enters a convent, through her travels to various nursing posts, and to Africa, in the Belgian Congo. It was a movie with Audrey Hepburn, which I also love. Both book and movie are somewhat slow and very straightforward--there is no poetry here, except that the experience is poetry. Even the sparest writing style lets that shine through. I find this book lovely, and though I can't say I have reason to believe it'd be your exact cup of tea, Jen, I have to recommend it anyway.

That's all for now. More later, I'm sure.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Impassioned Blogging

I'm not someone who can write with passion, I guess. I was going to write about this article, which caused me to seethe when I read it. But then I read this other article that made a lot of my points for me, and my impetus was gone.

Though I'd still like to point out that I think she's on the wrong track when she considers the trends she sees to be anti-feminist. As a fairly well-educated woman of the modern age, I feel comfortable saying that it's not my desire to be owned by a man that made me decide to change my name when I get married. It's recognizing that the solutions to the problem of name change that we have (hyphenation, one parent not sharing a name with the kids) are all imperfect. And women deciding that they want to be in the home is not watching them flush their intelligence away--the fact is, there are also lots more stay-at-home dads than there used to be. I think that everyone is beginning to recognize that getting ahead in business is not always very satisfying, and that it's okay to feel like the people in your life, family and friends, are a bigger priorty.

Not everyone will agree with me, and that's just fine, but if I make that decision, I'm not a throwback. I'm gifted to live in a time when I get to choose my own priorities. And I'm grateful to everyone who came before me who made it so that when the time comes, I'll be choosing what to do about my career and my family. I think I'll enjoy being a mom, but I think I would have enjoyed it a lot less if no one had ever asked me whether it was what I wanted.

Coming soon: a suggested reading list for Jen K-D.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Spoke Too Soon

Okay, so Spider has begun to purposefully mess up Fat Charlie's life. Sorry, Neil, you've tread into territory that innately troubles me.

I checked out the book Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell. I'm not a fan of the show, but the two episodes I caught have seemed somewhat charming, in a slick, shallow, too-rich, too-promiscuous way that I would feel bad calling "New York" if that wasn't the whole point. Aside from the morbid outlook (on page 3, a "happily married" friend of the author says that it's easier to be single than be in a couple, because instead of "fun"--described as drinking, drugs, and parties--your only choice is to sit home in your tiny apartment and stare at each other. ), the thing that bothered me was a huge glaring factual error.

She mentions Breakfast at Tiffany's as an example of romance. Okay, fine, either way. Then she says that Truman Capote understood romance, because these two independent people end up giving love a try. This woman clearly saw the movie, and then tried to use that to make a literary reference. I love this movie, but you don't get to talk about Audrey Hepburn and Truman Capote as though they participated in the same project. In the book (sorry for the spoiler), she doesn't end up with him--she runs off to Africa.

On this subject, I am incensed.

Also, it was in nonfiction. Hmm....

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Kudos to Gaiman

I have to say, Neil Gaiman's doing something in Anansi Boys that I didn't think could be done.

One of my pet peeves is the story about someone who's living a normal, happy, regular life, trying to be a good person and find a reasonable amount of happiness, whose life is then shaken up and turned upside down by someone wild and outrageous, with the moral lesson being that keeping your head down is an unacceptable way to live life.

Anansi Boys looked like one of those stories. Fat Charlie is clearly meek and not carpeing the diem. Spider shows up, and makes things "happen." Fat Charlie's a little miserable. And yet, Spider hasn't done anything to ruin Fat Charlie's life. Sure he's blackmailing his boss a little, but that's working out very well for him. Everything that's going wrong in Fat Charlie's life is his own fault or no one's--even indirectly, Spider is only making his life better, not worse.

So far, of course. But it's nice to be so pleasantly surprised.

Monday, October 31, 2005

With Apologies to George Takei

Well, color me chagrined. Just when I gave up on him, George Takei makes bold to come out of the closet. I congratulate him and his longtime partner, and I hope this step brings him happiness.

I don't think I'll read the book, though. I was so excited to read about the Nisei camps that making them boring was quite a feat. I blame the writing. Sorry, George--I love your acting career!

Okay, in other news, I'm reading The Art of War by Sun Tzu. This is very interesting, and makes me realize that a) I'm not smart enough to wage a good war, and b) neither is anyone currently waging war today. On one hand, the bad guys have it righter than we, in that it's all psychological. But they've got it all wrong, because a good war has very few casualties. A good war is won or lost before the battle begins. I don't know if I can explain it very well, but it's about a strategy that involves as much psychology as warfare, and about understanding your assets and liabilities, and also those of the enemy.

Good book--recommended.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


Sheer madness. I've been out of the office and crazed with busyness so far this week. There's a storm, there was a Richard Thompson concert, and I'm exhausted. I've given up on George Takei, and the BPL says that the Bridal Bargains book I reserved is in. That's it. I give up. I'm going to the library.

And I'm going to go nuts. I'm so excited. A bunch of random stuff I just sort of want to look at--a book of candid anecdotes about motherhood (what "they" don't tell you), a book I heard about on This American Life, in which a pop psychologist offers you scripts for common relationship discussions that are difficult to have. Plus maybe The Lady and the Unicorn, which I kind of figure is going to be mediocre (Tracy Chevalier is either a bulls-eye or just sort of okay, and Sara tells me this one is the latter). Maybe Unveiled, the nun book I've been saving back for a rainy day.

Hurricanes and nor'easters--it's raining.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Not So Far From Home

Okay, there's no way I'm going to be able to read George Takei's autobiography. I thought I could, and it sounds so interesting--childhood in Nisei camps, becoming an Asian-American actor in 1950s Hollywood, Star Trek. But no, and I'm afraid I blame the fact that he wrote it himself. I do not detect a ghostwriter here. It's just boring, as boring as anyone talking about their life, trying to communicate how important to them the mundane moments are, but, sadly, failing.

Pledged is better, in that it's trashy and light. It's like college all over, but with the 90210 kids instead of your real friends. But the life these girls are looking for sounds like true hell to me. I would sleep on park benches rather than in this sorority house, or any of the ones in the book.

I'm getting closer to having permission to go to the library. Midwives and We Were Orphans. Also I've had an urge to reread the fourth Clan of the Cave Bear book, The Plains of Passage. It's as awful as the title sounds, but if you skip through to the high points, it's racy and exciting.

I have to work Sunday this week, so I'm pretty bummed. I hope it doesn't ruin my Saturday, though I'm worried it will. Ugh.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Psst! I Think Kevin's a Sociopath

So I finished We Need to Talk About Kevin, which was quite wrenching and challenging. I think it's particularly difficult to wrestle with because there are a lot of things about parenthood that kind of hush-hush, or inappropriate to say. I know people say that it's hard work, but I think they tend to shy away from seeing parents as people when they're in their parenting role. (Okay, I tried not to say it this way, but I will: people shy away from human frailty when discussing parents qua parents.)

Anyway, I'm a little torn about the ending. I don't want to give it away, because I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, challenging read, but I'll ask just Ceci, who lent it to me: Did you buy the ending? Did it seem a little too tidy?

One thing I was very impressed with was the unreliable narrator. She was pretty darned reliable, actually, except...maybe not? The whole book is an exploration of guilt and blame taken on by someone whose life is subsumed in guilt but who sees a lot of the milestones in the book as inevitable.

I wish this had been a book club book. I'd really like to wrestle with it.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Falling All Over Myself

In looking for a new audiobook to listen to, I've unwittingly lengthened the list of books to read.

First of all, there are definitely some bad readers out there. The unabridged version of Before You Know Kindness (Chris Bohjalian) at Audible is read poorly. The abridged version is read well, by Blair Brown (of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd! Remember that? Urban ladies' sex lives!). Blair Brown also read Drowning Ruth. I never felt the need to read it till I heard the sample on Audible. Now I'm eager to.

Ugh. I need a week's vacation full of rainy days. One rainy day just makes me realize how much reading I'm up against. Before I'm allowed to go to the library again:

Drowned Ammet
Pledged: The Secret Lives of Sororities
We Need to Talk About Kevin
To the Stars: The Autobiography of George Takei
We Were Orphans

I've read Midwives, so that's just a reread, but I've wanted to for a while.

Oh, what a glut of pleasure!

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Okay, I don't want to ruin this for anyone, but every time I pick up this book, I feel prickles on the back of my neck. Besides reading in short bursts, I think venting is the best answer. So:

You, Franklin, are BLIND!!! Listen to your wife! Help your son!

Eva, run away! I know it would be abandonment, but Franklin is determined to play this horrible lie out to the end. If you run now, you can avert....

...well, avert how we know the story ends, because the entire story is told in flashback. It seems so obvious, but is that only because it's hindsight? I think that's a major theme of this story, too. It's a very thematic tale, really.

Anyway, I've vented, and now I'm ready to take it on again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Stevie K.

Finished up with Bag of Bones. I have to give him this; even the long-winded stuff ended up connected to the story. He spends too much time invoking his themes--repeating seemingly innocuous bits of conversation from earlier in the book for ominous effect, for example--but by the end, everything I thought was a digression had been incorporated. I still think it could have been done faster, but in the end I'd call it a good book.

Now I need another audiobook, and I think I've realized it needs to be pretty action-packed, because you don't get as much out of language from listening. I've got Anansi Boys, the new Neil Gaiman, but I'm not sure I want to read it. Mike's liking it, though, so I'll give it a shot.

I'm also moving along in We Need to Talk about Kevin. For those who know me, this will come as a surprise, but I'm enjoying this book and finding it fascinating, in spite of the fact that I hate every single character and find the whole outlook of the book to be revolting. I think it's because the author does a good job of making me realize that I'm NOT supposed to get behind the worldview of the narrator. Often other people tell me an author is doing that, but I can't feel it. Fight Club. The Epicure's Lament. But this book has so many layers of self-consciousness--even just within the letters the character is writing, before you get to the author. She's a person with a kind of poisonous attitude toward almost everything, whose son turned out to be a genuine, gun-em-down sociopath. So she's exploring what a creepy changeling of a child he was, while also exploring her own emotional failings as a mother.

The nature of blame and guilt--what it's worth, how it's assigned, whether it means anything--is a big theme. The challenging part of the book is that this woman is blaming herself on some level, but also trying to exonerate herself by making it clear that everything was inevitable.

It's complex. I'm enjoying sorting her mind out, because she's someone I feel like I see a lot in the world--media, message boards, maybe even real life. Someone who's mostly cynical, but wants to find that core of sincerity in life, but also doesn't want to believe in it because cynical = superior.

It's got me thinking. Thanks for the loan Ceci.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

So Tired

Business trip. Eating Steak & Shake. Went to the movies by myself (Flightplan, not bad). Time zone off, so sleepy.

But anyway, I haven't read as much as usual when travelling. Staying alone in a hotel room is not leading to as much free time as I expected. I've been--get this--leaving the hotel roomin the evening, SO unlike me. Good stuff, though.

I did read Cart and Cwidder by Diana Wynne Jones, which was a short but not slight YA fantasy Melissa lent me. I was surprised by how rich it was, and how sad and serious. I always think it's a great accomplishment when a storyteller can put the fate of the world in the hands of a band of ragtag kids without jumping through hoops to make it believable. Harry Potter, for example (and if I'm ever going to get flack, it'll be for this), has to perform what I feel are contortions to make the adults careless enough for Harry to have to keep saving the day.

Anyway, I'm also reading We Need to Talk about Kevin, a loaner from Ceci, which I'm getting the groove of. It's a little tough because it's an epistolary novel (Mike, tell me if I have that wrong), but the voice is not that of a normal person writing letters to her estranged husband. Partly because normal people don't talk like that, which I'm learning is because this character isn't normal (it hit me like The Epicure's Lament in that respect--this person is pretentious every minute of the day). But partly because, as a novel, it has to tell me things that could be written in shorthand to an estranged husband. She wouldn't have to recount all these memories in such detail--she'd put "Remember when..." and move on. But once I got used to that, I've really gotten into her voice, and it's interesting how she can be both so sympathetic and so unsympathetic as the same time.

I can't decide if I should hope to sleep all the way home, or hope not to. I think I want the sleep more, but it's so late right now!

Home Friday.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Been a Slacker

I've meant to write more; I like to keep this up a few times a week. But it's been a pretty stressful week at work, and I've also felt kind of slow and dumb, and not up to analyzing things.

This is particularly sad, since I had some interesting thoughts I wanted to put down earlier this week about a talk I went to. Ed Burger, a math professor at Williams, just published a book called Coincidences, Chaos, and All That Math Jazz, and I went to see him speak about it at the Harvard Bookstore. It was really interesting, and I asked a question, which made me very proud. (My question, for the interested, was this: in his book he discusses how cryptography depends on the fact that it's very, very hard to factor number. So if a HUGE number has only two HUGE prime factors, it can be used in cryptography. My question is, if you can't factor huge numbers, how do you know if a number is prime?)

Anyway, I had just finished his book, which is in large part about how our intuition is often wrong about things, and how math points us to the right answers. And I had just started a book called The Scientist in the Crib (I have to stop reading nonfiction, it's not nearly escapist enough), which is about how babies explore the world around them and come by all the knowledge that seems given the rest of us.

And I had in my head this big long discussion of the idea of being surprised by the nature of reality, and how these two books fit togther. Only now I'm feeling mentally logey, and it turns out the Scientist is really more about how amazing it is that babies are born able to understand seeing and hearing, etc. which doesn't seem THAT amazing to me since animals are born like that, too (I like the parts of the book about social skills and language much better). So we're going to abandon that lofty plan.

Yeah, I really need to read some fiction.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Personal Library Renaissance, Redux

I had made a resolution to read some fiction, finally, after glutting on nonfiction. I enjoy nonfiction, but it's not as engrossing, and it doesn't give me the same rush that fiction does.

So after I finish The Scientist in the Crib, which I'm hoping has lots of cute little kid anecdotes, I think I'm not only going to move on to fiction, but to reinstate the Personal Library Renaissance that I've been talking about forever. No more library books for me! No deadline, though--I just won't go through the usual cycle of returning some and getting new ones on the same trip. I'm learning not to ask too much of myself.

I do still have the library book n.p. by Banana Yoshimoto. I don't think it's a great translation, since a lot of the more casual language looks very stilted. The dialog, especially, looks like it's been translated word-for-word and without much style. But the plot sounds intriguing--a young woman tries to solve the mystery of her boyfriend's suicide. It turns out everyone who has tried to translate a certain story by a certain author has committed suicide, as indeed the author himself did. I worry it'll be a letdown, but I'll take what I can get.

Then I think When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro, which Becky was kind enough to lend/give to me. I've been so excited about that book that I've held off on it, because once I read it, I won't be able to look forward to it anymore. Or maybe I'm worried that it won't live up to my hopes. Whichever.

And The Final Solution by Michael Chabon. And then Ceci's going to lend me Pledged (non-fiction, but trashy nonfiction!) and We Need to Talk about Kevin. I think I'll reread Midwives.

I think that's it. That's enough to promise myself; who knows what will need to be read between now and then?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Cocky Fellows

I imagine my post title might get some interesting google hits. Bring 'em on!

I read Freakonomics. I have to say I was disappointed. It was slight, smug, and cocky, and this from both of the authors.

The economist clearly thought he was imparting something very, very special. But anyone who's ever read Slate's occasional column "The Dismal Science" knows that this is what economics is about--applying the theories of incentives to explain data. And, sadly but often, applying monetary figures to non-monetary transactions. The economist, in analyzing the effects of parenting on children, chose school test scores to measure success. The conclusion he reached is that who your parents are has an effect, but not what they do (so your parents' socioeconomic status and level of education will affect you, but not whether they read to you, talk to you or spank you). Now, at the beginning of this whole argument, he admits that he picked test scores as an indicator just because they're quantifiable and available in large numbers. But by the end of the chapter, he had drawn sweeping conclusions that I suspect would have been shattered if you were able to measure an effect like how happy and well adjusted the children turned out.

Really, it's just that he acted like he was giving me this magical gift of his insight, when really all I felt like he was doing was the tedious work of crunching some interesting numbers for me.

The writer, in the meantime, was using excerpts from an article he wrote about this guy for the NY Times Magazine for epigraphs for each chapter. Not only do I consider that kind of lazy, but the point of each excerpt was not about economics, but about how cool and punk rock this guy is.

My favorite bit of bad writing is in a place where the writer (the guy's name is Stephen J. Dubner) tries to build suspense in a sentence. Check this out. "...are we to assume that mankind is innately and universally corrupt? And if so, how corrupt? The answer may lie in . . . bagels."

Now, check out the use of ellipses there. That's in the original book. He wants to build tension before startling us with his revelation that bagels may hold the key to mankind's corruption. What a cheap way to do it.

The next book I picked up is How to be Alone by Jonathan Franzen. I borrowed this from Lynne a while ago and just picked it up. After reading the preface, I almost put it down. The preface was about how he had been defensive about what a jerk everyone thought he was till he went back and looked at his essays of a few years ago and realized what a jerk he was. The way he addressed this subject made him look like a real jerk. But I've been sucked into his essay about the crappy Chicago postal system, and while I still have no desire to read about his theories on the demise of the American novel, the postal system stuff is really interesting.

In sum, cocky, but we'll give him a shot.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I Can't Believe I Didn't Tell You This One Yet

Okay, it's time for everyone to understand what a BAD library companion Melissa is.

She reads, we share books--so I thought I'd bring her to the BPL. I have a list of about four books I need to pick up. It'll be fun, right?

Now, when I go shopping with friends who have self-control problems, I consider myself very good at hurling myself between them and temptation. Not that I'd forcibly prevent anyone from making a good purchase, but when Kerry would approach the bath products, I knew it was time to divert her. And you can only let Sara spend so much time in the handbags section before things get a little hairy. Isn't it your duty, as a friend, to make sure the person doesn't hurt themselves when temptation is near?

Melissa, you let me down. She kept pointing things out. She stopped me in the bridal section. She stood on silently as I debated picking up that random Young Adult book that caught my eye, and then said "why not?" when I asked her directly if I should take it.

Why not? I'll tell you why not--do you know how heavy twelve books can be? When you don't have a bag to carry them in? THAT'S why not. What happened to support? What happened to picking up the slack when someone's weakness comes into play.

Melissa, I adore you, but next time we go to the library together, you're getting a cue card with the word "NO" written on it. It looks like I'm going to need self-control for both of us.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


I'm not quite done reading Cures: A Gay Man's Odyssey, but I think I'm ready to pick it apart.

First, I like the word "odyssey," but probably couldn't have spelled it if the book cover wasn't right here. I don't know for sure that I would call this story an odyssey, though I suppose it was subjectively. It's not really a story of someone having adventures, though I have no doubt there were many adventures to be had in the New York gay scene in the '60s. In fact, it's implied that he had some of them. But they're not central to this book.

Central to the book, as you can tell by the title, is therapy. Psychoanalysis to a lesser extent, but psychological explanations in general--Erikson's developmental stages Freud's ideas of repression and displacement, etc. The author, Martin Duberman, debunks a lot of the conclusions psychology came to over the years about homosexuality, but he totally buys psychology. It's his primary lens for everything. I find that interesting in a refreshing way, in that he was able to reject the conclusions of a field whose methodology he considers valid. It's almost like he thinks psychologists aren't using their toolbox properly. I also found it a little tiresome, because he spends a lot of time quoting his diary, in which he delves a lot.

I don't think I would recommend this book as a casual read, though I think I would strongly recommend it to someone who had a specific interest in the topic. It's just not compelling enough to stand on its own--he repeats the same patterns in his life, and fills much of his time with his work as an historian and civil rights and anti-war activist. All of those things are not merely related, but reflected in the prose. Still, it's almost unfathomable to me how the world thought--and often still thinks--about people, and he relates many of these circumstances very well.

Also I disagree with him about promiscuity (meaning, I think but am not certain, also infidelity) being fine and dandy just because it's natural. We restrict a lot of natural urges for the good of society, and I think it's important not to say that just because we once thought homosexuality was sick, but we were wrong, does not mean that it's wrong to demand any restriction on sexual behavior by society.

But I'm not arguing well, possibly because my wrist hurts. This is all for now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Can't Figure out How to Stop It

I'd like to hear from any Virginia Woolf fans. I was supposed to read To the Lighthouse for a class once, but after the first ten pages and the first class discussion in which I began to see what I was up against, I didn't even really make an effort. (I certainly hope Professor Case never finds this site.) The one thing I remember is that you would start out a passage knowing who was thinking, and about what, and by the end of the paragraph two pages later, you would have no idea who or what was under discussion.

I loved A Room of One's Own, though, because I thought it was well argued, with the right amount of incidental and anecdotal information, along with the more sweeping points. I also thought she was very clear, when she wanted to be, in that essay.

Orlando, my first even completed Virginia Woolf novel, was...well, I couldn't figure out how to make the book stop except by finishing it. The wonderful things about it were the very, very funny moments, and some of the very well-parodied characters (the first and last man ever to toast cheese in the Italian marble fireplace large enough for a tall man to stand in). The hard parts--well, the magical realism wasn't that hard. I might even put that in the "assets" column. The bizarre interludes where Modesty, Chastity, and Purity come and dance around the young man Orlando, who then wakes up a woman...well, that was pretty weird. But the unlikeable parts were the soliloquizing that I just couldn't figure out. I found myself, in long passages, forgetting what the point of the description was. I definitely lost track of a number of points the author must have been trying to make.

Clearly, the whole thing was a parable. What was I supposed to learn? There was something important about writing, about finding the role of writing in the writer's life, and the writer in society. Okay, I think I mostly got that. There were quite a few lessons about being a woman, though not as many as I expected at first. By turning from a man to a woman, Orlando really ends up being a woman who had a boyhood, and also someone who has both and neither sex. It's a very modern viewpoint, actually--I feel that, often enough in my life, it doesn't matter that I'm a woman. Based on other things I've read, I hadn't expected Woolf to come across this way. Cool.

But there was a whole thing about "The Spirit of the Age," and then another thing about Orlando's philandering, and I don't know what-all else. Let's just say, I feel like I missed a lot of the book, enjoyed a great deal of what was there, and will see the movie. I think that's all I have to bring to this; I wish there was more.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Totally Off Topic

Okay, this has nothing to do with books, except to the extent that poor Ray Bradbury's name was attached. But I feel I need to warn the world. I need to put the the word "abysmal" and the name of the movie The Sound of Thunder in the same post so that someone might find them and realize what a an awful, horrible, bad movie this was.

How long has it been since you've seen actors fake walking in front of a projection of a city street. Remember the skiing scene with Ingred Bergman and Gregory Peck in Spellbound? Like that. And the background moves by at a perfectly steady pace that's just a hair faster than they're actually walking? And they sort of sway back and forth because it's the only way to move your body out of the way of your own feet? Yeah, that.

Terrible CGI, no fewer than three contradictory theories of how time travel works, a mysteriously unpopulated city, and a whole slew of things I can't tell you about without giving something away. Oh, spare yourself! Doom, doom!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Things You Probably Already Knew

Stephen King needs an editor. Bag of Bones is a pretty good book, but really just way too long in some places. He can't resist a thought full of clever word play that might cross the narrator's mind, relevant or not, credible or not. This man is thinking of clever puns while being scared out of his mind. Really, it's any appearance of cleverness at all that he can't bear to cut. It reminds me of William Goldman's truism, for screenwriting but probably for all writing--you must kill your darlings. Sometimes your best work is the part you have to cut. C'mon, Stephen. Be merciless.

Okay, so maybe you didn't know that. Maybe you're like that smug librarian in my hometown library who used to remark on every book you were checking out, often unfavorably. She wrinkled her nose whenever I checked out Stephen King, which I never did till after high school. But then again, I got to feel smug when she said she couldn't understand Like Water for Chocolate, which I actually enjoyed a lot.

You also probably knew that the 50s was a lousy decade to be gay in America. I knew that, too. This fellow, Martin Duberman, has seriously internalized a great deal of psychoanalytic theory, to the point where even when he's refuting things, he speaks their language. This has led me to do some thinking about the word "pretentious." It occurs to me that genuine highfalutinness is not actually pretention--if you're a world-renowned academic, you're not pretending to anything when you talk like a world-renowned academic. It's only when you're a freshman, or just plain ignorant, that you can call it pretentious.

I grant him that--he's not pretentious--though I still don't much like it.

I guess this entry wasn't mostly about things you probably already knew. Except the Stephen King thing. So, Thing You Probably Already Knew.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Eaten by a Bear, and Other Comforts

Despite a fairly significant amount of downtime over the weekend, I don't feel like I've made forward progress in my goals. Sadly, when I think about why I feel that way, I realize that my goal is to get all these books read. You know, the ones I'm planning to read. Now, somehow that doesn't seem very life-affirming; get it done, cross them off the list, and everything will be fine.

I spent most of the weekend rereading. A little of Expecting Adam, which really had an impact on me the first time I read it, but which a more skeptical second reading is revealing as more of a good read than maybe the gospel I took it for. I feel a little gullible for buying wholesale into th whole thing; not that I disbelieve it, but a healthy skepticism makes you evaluate how well everything ties together, and whether you REALLY had those thoughts before those other things happened. Anyway, it's still well written, and I'm sorry to lose my excited first reaction, but I have.

Mostly, though, I was reading The Clan of the Cave Bear. Linden and I used to sit around and talk about what we thought would happen in the next sequel to come out. What basic element of civilization would she discover next? She's tamed animals--will she domesticate crops? She invented the sewing needle. Next? Discover the wheel, perhaps? Anyway, it was really soothing to read. I'm kind of skimming--there are a lot of descriptive passages that I've enjoyed in the past, but this time I'm just skimming through the story. It's so soothing and reassuring. A childhood favorite, despite, you know, the sex.

Now that I'm back to the commute, though, I'm reading my Commute Book, which is currently Cures. This is a memoir of a gay man who spent the fifties alternately cruising bars and bath houses and in therapy trying to get "cured" of his homosexuality. It's told in a very matter-of-fact manner, very like sitting down and having someone outline his life for you, going into detail when necessary to make the point. It also does a good job of evoking the social environment of the time--not just the facts, but the sense that not only is heterosexuality the norm, so is monogomy, and that this is a big part of the problem.

But I sort of feel like he does his story a disservice when he discusses some of these topics. He presents very clearly the objective and subjective facts of his life at the time, but he doesn't do much tempering of the subjective part through a modern lens.

I might be misreading my own reasons for being thrown off, but I think it's because he doesn't sort out some of the jumbled mixed-messages there were in the fifties. He equates the perceived wrongness of homosexuality and the perceived wrongness of promiscuity together. And of course, at the time, for him, they were all mixed up. But I think, whether or not both of them had equal validity, in modern times it's worth trying to work out how they were separate things.

I'm working through about seven library books right now. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Who's a Wannabe?

Queen Bees and Wannabes, which folks may have noticed was cited as the "based on" book for the movie Mean Girls, is a lot better described by its subtitle, Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence. (Note that the lack of the last serial comma is not house style here where I work, but to each publishing house its own.)

This book is really a self-help book. It's very much about how to talk to your daughter, prevent her from rolling her eyes at you, and help her make good decisions, instead of locking her up for five years. I'm not fully convinced it's possible to prevent the eye-rolling, but the message of respect and letting go was good.

There were way fewer personal flashback moments than I would have expected. I think I managed to dodge much of the later-adolescence stuff in my own life. The boys, drugs, sex, partying parts were very interesting, but in a much more anthropological way. Also in a "crap, I'm going to have to rear children one day and deal with this mess" kind of way. But the middle school, cliques, best friend swapping, girl cruelty parts at the beginning of the book were really fascinating. It's an incredibly complex society these kids have, mostly because they're smart enough to think and plan and machinate, but not mature enough intellectually to analyze what they're doing and control themselves.

Upcoming: books I'm planning to read.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Do You Think I'm Crazy?

So the library's updated website indicates that you can "log in before clicking Add To My List to retain titles in the list for 90 days."

The 90 day limit was pretty upsetting, since I keep all my books to read in that list, and sometimes I don't read them for months. So I clicked the "Give us your feedback" link and gave it: while I understand that there are space constraints, that limit makes me sad.

Within the hour, I received a reply stating that the entire list is retained, and only deleted after 90 days of inactivity. I have no worries there--I'm in there all the time. Hooray!

Now, when I told this to Mike, he seemed to think the salient point of the story is that I'm someone who calls the library to ask how long it keeps my list. Now, I think that since they had a big BUTTON asking for my advice, there was nothing presumptuous about me offering it. But I'd like to know if I'm alone in thinking that there's nothing obsessive about this.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Long Weekend

So we went to Mike's cousin Matt's wedding this weekend, in upstate Michigan. It was chilly, rainy Saturday morning, but ended up gorgeous for the wedding itself. But travelling to upstate Michigan takes a long time. Especially when you misread your itinerary and get to the airport three hours early.

From 10:30 am until 9:30 pm (or so) we were travelling on Friday. Sunday, it was 9:30 am till 7:30 pm. Saturday was pretty much spent at the hotel, due to being exhausted. And then in the evening, the wedding. There was a live Motown band, called the KGB, which was really cool. I'm a little weddinged out, sadly; I get tired much earlier than I used to.

But the long plane trips made for a ton of reading. I finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is the third Narnia book and is getting a little boring in its blatant moralism. It's a series of lessons, and just as the characters are about to go irrevocably awry, Aslan appears and shows them how to be right. And then he explains that in our world he's called Jesus and you should really listen to him. It's pretty much that blatant, though he doesn't use the name "Jesus" directly.

Anyway, I don't know if I'll go any further in that series. I also finished Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. This was excellent, even better than Gilead, I think. It definitely worked more tightly as a novel, though it was still full of very well-expressed thoughts on belonging, and sorrow, and inevitable sadness. There is no lasting happiness, certainly not in the cold northern town of Fingerbone, and not in the whole world she inhabits. Not just the character, I mean, but the author. There's little even of the transient joy she allows for--sparkly shoes, huckleberries. It's a very sad story.

And now I'm reading Queen Bees and Wannabes, which is inflicting fewer painful middle school flashbacks than I might have expected. It's interesting, though dense. I'm curious how well these methods would really work for communicating with a teenager. First, self-reporting is a notoriously unreliable way of getting information from anyone, especially kids (not the most self-aware creatures to begin with). Secondly, it's hard to reconcile her reliance on affirmation as a method of staying close with the real need to stop certain behaviors. Anyway, I think it's a great book for someone who actually has a teen, but it only reads as moderately interesting for the rest of us.

I have 11 library books out now. We'll see how the rest of them wind up.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


...I didn't finish. But the epilogue looked boring, and I can read it later when book club swings around. So I think I'll take credit for The Devil in the White City.

All Signs Point to Yes

It looks like I'll make it! It seems like I can read 15 pages between now and when I go return it at the end of the day.

The question is, when I go to return it, will I be able to restrain myself? I still have 5 books from the library, and I'm picking up one for Mike. His book is upstairs, quite close to a couple of books I want--Queen Bees & Wannabes, which was the basis of the movie Mean Girls, for example.

So will I be taking more than five library books to Michigan this weekend?

See entry title.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Race Against Time!

The library book is due tomorrow, and I can't renew it because there's a wait list! I'm 90 pages from the end, and I have to get ready for the next wedding trip tonight! Can I do it???

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Time Crunch

I went on a five day vacation and read hardly a word.

I finished rereading In This House of Brede, which was a beautiful book and which I'm so glad I got for Christmas. I won't go on about nuns again except to say that good nun books are very pleasing to me. I got through maybe ten more pages of The Devil in the White City, and started The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which is short, being a kids' book, so I'll probably get through it soon. Still, I'm disappointed in myself, especially since White City has to go back to the library on Thursday and I would really like to finish it. But I guess a good vacation is more rare and valuable than getting some reading done. I'll let it go.

White City does seem to have put Colombian Exposition Fever in my blood, though. The book is a little limiting, in that it's about the architects--which is fascinating--but doesn't get into the nitty gritty as much as I'd like. It gives examples of logistic problems, but doesn't detail how they're solved. Not that I want a pedantic list of these things, but it'd be nice to learn a little more about architecture. I got Fair Weather, a Richard Peck children's book about a girl who goes to the fair, when I went to the library, just because I feel like I want to know a little more about the sensational parts of the fair, which are breezed by in favor of the truly astounding engineering feats--the first Ferris Wheel!

This weekend will involve a plane trip--there will be much reading.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Nuns Revisited

Well, I think I've given up on Our Lady of the Forest. I was always a little doubtful, but I tried it anyway, and I don't hate it, but I really really just don't like it. It has a few of my pet peeves, including lots of dialog without quotation marks, as well as characters who cross the line on some of my own personal hygene pet peeves. Let's preserve the family-friendly nature of this blog and leave it at that; it's sufficient to say I just am not enjoying it at all.

Surprisingly, the same is not the case for Orlando: A Biography, by Virginia Woolf. I'm not sure how she's going to pull off the things that the back cover says she'll do, but I'm enjoying the trip so far. It looks like it's going to be a magical realism--emphasis on "magical"--type of story. So far, it's just about a romantically flaky courtier. But I'm caught up, which I've never been able to say about a Virginia Woolf novel before.

The Devil in the White City is pretty enjoyable, too. I don't necessarily feel that the two stories--the mass murderer and the architect--really fit together, and I have my suspicions that they might never really come together. But the juxtaposition isn't hurting either of them. My one hope is that all the architectural problems they've been teasing me with get wrapped up. I suspect that they present these specific issues more as background color, and that they're not going to resolve them to my satisfaction. For example, the level of Lake Michigan changes by as much as 4 feet over the course of the year. How can the landscape architect manage the flora so that there is neither a bare 4 feet of ground, nor a bunch of drowned plants?

And finally, I've started re-reading In This House of Brede, by Rumer Godden. I asked for and got this for Christmas, after reading it at the library last year. It's just such a good book. I think one of the reasons I like behind the scenes nun stories is that I just like behind the scenes stories. Just the day-to-day that you would never have guessed. Kitchen Confidential was good like that, though I prefer nuns to trash-talking ex-cons. But rarely do you get books in which not much happens that don't come out boring. In This House of Brede is right up there with The Nun's Story, and I rather wish there were more.

I'm on vacation for the second half of this week, so it will be next week before I'm back. In case, you know, anyone's reading this.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

My Childhood Crush on Michael J. Fox

It was only a little crush, and I suppose it was really on Alex P. Keaton, though I've always enjoyed Fox's work. His book was pretty good, too. His childhood was only minorly interesting, mostly because it was so typical, but the entire story of his acting career was quite interesting, and his account of living with Parkinson's Disease is quite fascinating. I had sort of wondered why he let himself be typecast for so long; it was because felt he needed to work on as many moneymaking products as fast as he could, to ensure his family had enough money when he couldn't work any more. He speaks so well of his wife, you know she must have SOME flaws. He loves his kids. Etc.

That's the one thing about the book, actually; he's telling the story of the parts of his life he really kind of screwed up, and he's trying to be pretty sincere, but he's also trying to be balanced, and you can see the balance tipping in his favor in some places. In telling the story of a fight with his brother right after the death of his father, he acknowledges that his renown caused stress to his family in that time (of course not his fault) and that he made a remark that was funny in his head but not out loud (happens to all of us), but he sidesteps the part where, you know, probably part of it was that fame actually HAD kind of gone to your head. He admits his own flaws, but in a very carefully screened and structured way.

I listened to it on tape, too. Fox (it's weird to call him that; that's how you talk about authors, not actors) read chapter 1 himself, and an actor read the rest. Fox's reading was quite good, though you could tell it wasn't terribly easy for him. Knowing he was sick, you could hear how words were sometimes swallowed and cut short. But his reading was much better than that of the actor--who overacted in some places, and hit a lot of words too hard.

Anyway, that's a lot to devote to that one book. In other news: I'm reading The Devil in the White City, which is really pushing the line between colorful nonfiction and fictionalized scenes, and doing it well. Also, I kind of wish I wasn't saving money for a wedding and a house and had the option of really pursuing this librarian thing. I don't know if I actually would, but right now quitting my job is not remotely an option (how do people who DON'T make large salaries buy houses anywhere NEAR this city?), so I just have to keep dreaming.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

From the Rulebook

I instigated a policy a while ago, that I should not read exposés. This was after I read Bushwhacked and The Amercian Way of Death in close succession and found myself questioning the worth of humanity and whether it might be better to just go live in a yurt somewhere in Mongolia (shout out to E Ben, here, who just test-drove that life plan). Anyway, since I also have some strict policies on toilet facilities in my life, a yurt is not a good option, so no more exposés, unless I'm fully braced, and only if consumed in small amounts.

I did not, however, expect For Her Own Good: 150 Years of Advice to Women to be quite so exposé-like. The first chapter explains the patriarchy, not as just any male-dominated society, but the pre-industrial Western world in which the family unit is the basic unit of a person's destiny, and the father/male head of the family is the authority. It was quite interesting, particularly in how women were more valuable then for their unique skills, which capitalism as an economic and social system rendered alien and somewhat irrlevant. (The book was written in the mid-70s, so it's a very different "modern" situation being compared to history.)

Anyway, as soon as you start talking about the social structure of capitalism, and how the personal and the buisness are separate spheres but people are raised to function in the public or "business" world, making the personal sphere secondary and perhaps irrelevant...well, I can't read anymore.

And that's that.

Friday, July 29, 2005

A Wash

Last night was, on average, a neutral night for literature in my little world. On the one hand, the library was just pathetic. Few or none of the books I wanted were there, even when a) the online catalog said they would be there when I checked earlier in the day, or b) there is no EARTHLY reason they shouldn't be there. I mean, don't you think there should be at least one copy of Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana just SITTING on the SHELF???

And Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the third Narnia book. Let me complain briefly: the library system owns about sixty copies of this book. But because some are different editions or even different printings of the same edition or even, I suspect, the same exact copy of the book entered into the database by two different people, I have to sort through twenty five listings for this title before I prove that yes, the main branch carries it, and yes, they're all checked out.

Ah, but on the other hand, you now have to climb over a bookshelf to get into our bathroom. Luckily, that's not the literal truth, but the little corridor does feel rather like a submarine made of books. Yes, we have added a shelf to the pantheon. It has a WHOLE shelf for books that are borrowed from other people, plus three full shelves that we haven't filled up yet. This is all the expanding I'm allowed to do before we buy a house fifteen years from now, when we've saved up the $8,000,000 down payment you need to buy around here.

I'd like to put in a plug for my fiance here, too--Mike was a rock, when this somewhat cheapo bookshelf was letting me down (unhelpful directions, an Allen wrench that didn't match any of the sizes in our tool kit). He was very patient with my snippy impatience, and has once again made me a very happy lady.

Wish me luck making it through the last three hours of the work week.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Brief Whine

I won't be long because I should be working, but I'm returning a library book half-read (well, more like 20% read), and I wanted to mention it before it was out of sight and, therefore, mind.

Stick Figure, by Lori Gottlieb, which we plugged on This American Life at one point. I have faith in those people, though they like Dan Savage a lot more than I do. But I couldn't like this book. It's written as a diary of an 11-year-old girl, but it's spotty in its realism as a diary. Of course, no diary-style novel ever reads like a real diary, with the holes, assumptions, whims, ramblings, etc. But these entries all give the very strong impression of an adult interpreting how things must have looked to her precocious young self, with a layer of "confusion" over it. An example is the author's clear awareness of her mother's gender-specific hypocrisies regarding food; another is the line where she says "I look at the women in the magazines; maybe that's what I'm supposed to look like." Well, yes, people feeling that way is a huge problem. But there's this too-precious "confusion" that the girl expresses, which is positively drowned in the adult author's neon signs pointing at the bad messages she was sent as a child.

It's about her eating disorder. I couldn't finish it. So sorry.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Trouble in Paradise

I keep getting distracted by work. Not the good kind of distracted, either, where things get done. The cruddy kind where I'm worried about things that are my fault but mostly out of my control. I am a worrier, and mostly not in a constructive way.

But the topic of the day is Literary Fiction: Why? Why? Why? And the answer, I often find, is simply, "For no reason but that the world is a bleak and uncaring void."

First, let's look at what set me off. Alice Munro's Runaway, which is the one I made Brenda lend me, when she would have started me off with a different Alice Munro book. I will first off say that it is extremely well-executed, only rarely falling into what I consider to be the pitfall of literary fiction, which is not being about anything particular. By this I suppose I mean bad LF, although it's also possible that I'm not perceptive enough to get it (this is ENTIRELY possible). But often, I find that these tiny slices of average life in which nothing particular happens are supposed to lead me to a deep understanding of something that I'm not sure even the author knows what. It's like abstract art; Jackson Pollack clearly knew what he was doing, but there are a lot of people out there who took that to mean they could make squiggles and people would buy it.

But Alice Munro is clearly getting at something, and although the actual events in her stories are often very small (even when they could have been made large, like the story of a woman who spent most of her life committed to an institution she should not have been in, she tells them as small and personal), they are interesting and clearly important. There is definitely a density to her stories, and a sense that the entire story is a heavy velvet curtain--there is probably something behind it, but even if there wasn't, the curtain is thick and rich and has a gravity of its own.

She wrote lovely, rich stories with characters who make you feel like you're learning about humanity as you read about them. So why is everything we learn so tragic? Why is it about betrayal, failure, pain, and fate kicking people when they're down? I really can't understand why nothing good ever happens to any of these people. A woman gets married--that's happy, right? But there's no sense of joy in it; it's 1927 and someone has finally asked her. She has a friend with a special gift, but she likes showing it off, and are they really friends?

Every story in this anthology, and, I often feel, most literary fiction, is an exploration of unhappiness, disappointment, and the ways in which unease can creep in where you're expecting small joys. I don't find this useful. Though I know I tend to be a cheerful sort of person, I'm not even asking for all cheer (I've read that book, it was called Three Wishes by Barbara Delinksy, and it was HORRIBLE), but life is a balance of tragedy and joy, of disappointment and pleasure. The pleasure is not made less real or sweet by the joy, anymore than pain is alleviated by the fact that you were once happy.

Katie's observation is that writers fear sentiment, and the positive often smacks of sentiment, so they shy away. This is why I have a philosopy called the New Sincerity, in which irony and cynicism are banished as old-fashioned, and it's once again "cool" to care about things, to love in a sensible and reasonable way (not just passionately and destructively), and to be interested in and pleased by the world around you. I don't always live it, but I'm fond of this philosophy.

In conclusion, I will reluctantly mention Mike's point that A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers is literary fiction with a downer of a topic, but an upbeat tone--striking the balance I'm looking for. I begrudge him this point, true or not, because 1) I don't like that book, and 2) I found it sad, in the manner of something cheerful that has become grimy--a child's favorite toy trampled on in a muddy front yard.

That is all.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Think of the Children!

Okay, Anna pointed out (via her mother--I understand she won't start typing classes till she's at least 6 months old) that there are certain disturbing elements in the story of Babar the Little Elephant. And surely, the fact that he marries Celeste, who is not only his cousin, but still in short dresses, is somewhat troubling.

But I'm more concerned about his callous and selfish relationship with The Old Lady, who takes him in when he's alone and naked (literally!), clothes him, and supplies him, sugar-momma-style, with all his material needs and wants. Then she also supplies cash for gifts for the relatives who start showing up on his doorstep. And what does he do? He takes off with barely a backward glance, in HER car, and doesn't even invite her to the wedding! "Hey baby, it's been great, but you're tying me down, and I gotta be free!"


So in short, this book is full of loose morals and is not appopriate for small children.

There will be another entry later about literary fiction and The New Sincerity, but I need to settle my nerves after that brush with loose French morals.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Feeding the Monster

It looks like the consensus is that I should be a librarian. Thank you everyone who voted--it sounds like a pretty obvious fit, to be honest. I think it's the schooling that scares me more than anything--while I think I could be a librarian, I don't feel confident that I could qualify as one. And I've always resisted the idea of grad school in general. But to be a children's librarian or to work in YA, I think, would be pretty cool. Before I did anything, though, I'd have to find a part time or volunteer position, to figure out if I'd really want to do this every day. I think this is a thing I would plan for after Mike and I get married and get a house.

Besides that research (I really only looked at Simmons, which has a very good program, just to get an idea), this weekend has been full of feeding the addiction. We ordered a new bookshelf (!), which will be a pretty tight fit, but much-needed. Mike seems to think that buying books isn't a big deal, but buying a bookshelf is feeding my addiction. As though I were addicted to furniture. No, needing a new shelf (which we definitely do need) is a sign of the addiction, and what I should probably NOT have done was buy some used books at the Harvard Book Store. But I'd thought long and hard, and really wanted to reread both of them (The Poisonwood Bible and The Midwives). So that's done, and with that and the Amazon package arriving today, I have all the books I'm getting for a while. But oh, what a great ride it was this weekend.

I think today's a library day, too, though I'm not singing the song yet, so it could still go either way. I'm going for returns, but I really want to reread Jon Stewart's Naked Pictures of Famous People, which is light and dumb and funny, so I've started a list, and that's growing. Prince Caspian, Anna Karenina (I have my doubts, but I will try), and The Girls at the Back of the Class, a short, fast book by the author of Dangerous Minds.

Librarianism. I have to get used to it. It's kind of exciting to think about the things my life might hold for me in a few years that are so different from anything I'm doing now. I'm not usually excited about change, but getting married seems to be bringing on all kinds of good things.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Do You Speak for the Trees?

I have to say, Dr. Seuss's The Lorax is a little, well, preachy. It gets kind of didactic toward the end. Like about how people cut down trees and it destroys the world, but only YOU can prevent forest fires...no, wait, I mean REGROW THE FOREST. It leaned a little hard on its message, is all I'm saying.

The final Travelling Pants installment was delightful.

And now I'm drifting between the very, very literary Alice Munro (stories, Runaway), The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, which is good but not really holding my attention, and The Law of Similars, which I want to read, have been carrying around with me, but have not yet begun. I really loved The Midwives, which was Chris Bohjalian's story about the family of a midwife who has been accused, in effect, of malpractice. And I want to read Trans-Sister Radio, a book which, despite its too-precious title, I'm hoping will be an intelligent and sensitive take on transsexualism.

Lynne is reading Anna Karenina, and I'm tempted to try it with her. I'm tempted, in fact, to see if Renegade Book Club would like to read it in stages--maybe read a few chapters and then meet. Or not--whatever. Still, they had a whole winter study course on it at Williams, and it's one of those books that one ought to read. Plus, I can get it half price from the publisher I work for. What's not to love?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

These Days

My aunt (well, second cousin, technically) said this weekend that I should go back to school and get my masters as a librarian. The truth is I've thought of that, and I think I'd love to be a children's librarian, or to build a collection. But something I've learned about myself in the working world is that, in spite of the many skills I have, I'm really quite incapable of being organized. I'm not a systematic person. I'm a stack-it-all-in-the-corner-and-let-god-sort-it-out kind of person. And I think that's pretty sad, because working in a library would, I think, make me very happy.

I also mentioned to my aunt that I'm about to take a bit of a dive into nonfiction. Not that I don't read plenty of it (though I've got a new policy against exposés), but I've got some good stuff on my list. Like The Scientist in the Crib, about how young children try to figure out the world and use logic to come up with all sorts of random conclusions about reality. And Cures, which is the memoir of a gay man who spent a lot of years with therapists who were trying to cure him of being gay. Finding Your North Star (that might not be exactly the title) is a little self-helpy for me, but it's by Martha Beck, whose other books, both memoirs, I really love.

And maybe her career counselling advice will send me back to grad school to become a librarian.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Sad Times

It's been a pretty emotional week--the excitement and party at July 4th, and the death of a fellow I knew that happened this week. It's hard to think about other things, but it's hard not to, as well. Right now, I'm mostly reminded to value the people I care about, and to tell them so. I hope everyone takes that advice.

Yesterday we had the first Renegade Book Club meeting, after much diddling around on my part. I have a hard time talking about a book so long after I've read it, especially since I didn't take good notes. It was an excellent book, though I don't know if I'd call it an excellent novel. Gilead was much more of a meditation than a novel. Lynne speaks of dipping into it rather than sitting down to read it, and I must say I agree. The narrator is elderly, and it is often like talking to someone old--somewhat drifty, stream-of-consciousness, moving back and forth between the past, the present and the abstract. But it is also poetry, because it's the story of a man who loved life, and the world, and people, full of flaws--everything. It's warming to meet a very good man in fiction, and to observe him trying to be a good man, when he is truly, of course, just a man.

I hope we keep Renegade Book Club running, and maybe get it a little tighter. I'm not really happy with Old Book Club at this point, so I consider it valuable. But it's hard to keep up with everything. Right now I'm reading a number of things that aren't even on my list. I'm slipping behind. I could use another long weekend, just sitting at home and reading. Sadly, it'll never happen.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Pants Pants Pants

Okay, clearly this book is a winner. Although, for the record, I think the names are going downhill. I mean, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants is a good name for a book. The Second Summer of the Sisterhood is kind of weak, but at least it has alliteration on its side. But Girls in Pants is just shorthand for Another One of those Books about Those Girls You Like to Read About. I'm sure it'll be a wonderful book, but still.

I don't think I've met anyone who hasn't liked that book--a random girl in the elevator at work spent a long ride and a walk to the sidewalk gushing (with hand gestures). E Ben, who is a MAN, liked it. Mike liked the parts he read over my shoulder. Sensational!

I think, in the first book, I liked Bridget best. I liked that she was such a together, confident person, but that she didn't fully grasp what was going on inside herself. I thought it was a very complete depiction of someone who's skimming along successfully on the surface of life, but who doesn't even know what to do with the depths. Carmen was most like me, though. All temper and no self-control. There were so many moments, in all the stories, that just hit you with their perfect description of exactly what you've felt at one time or another.

Thanks so much for writing, Rachel! Becky's told me that I should talk about books with you, since it's 90% of what I want to talk about. It's nice to find someone who's interested in this Quest to Read Everything.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


After many laborious weeks, I have finished reading Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. It was a long book. There was a lot of information in it. He assimilates it very thoroughly--despite its scholarly air, he simplifies his means of arguing by repeating connections he's made over and over again. This gets a little repetitious (yes, Mr. Diamond, I understand that the east-west axis of Eurasia made it easier to spread agricultural advancements quickly across the continent), but on the other hand, I would never have been able to read it if he'd gone with underkill instead of over.

I'm now full of cocktail party tidbits that I suspect I'm going to be boring people about for months to come. Almost all crops native to the Americas are actually native to South America. One of the reasons Europe and Asia developed so quickly compared to other continents was simply that they had a lot of good crops and animals to start with, when it came to farming. If you can't farm, you can't increase your population as fast, and you can't feed yourselves fast enough to have leisure times to develop things like microchips. For example, one factoid I liked was this: a nomadic hunter-gatherer can only have one baby ever 4 years--basically, you can't have a new baby till the old one can walk, otherwise you're not mobile enough. So even if you have enough food for everyone, you still can't increase your population as fast.

Anyway, it was a really interesting book. Well designed, too--because of the repetition I mentioned before, even if you put it down for a while, you can come back to it later and details or conclusions that slipped your mind will be reiterated. This is why I was able to take over a month to read it and yet still retain a lot.

Besides this, I've been reading a LOT of young adult material. I'm running low on steam for it, actually. Now that I've finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in time for the movie that will be out in about six months, I can get back to other things. Oh, except that my turn with Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood just came up at the library. I swear that's it, though--after that, I'm reading only serious adult tomes for at least a month.

Well, maybe not serious. I'm eyeing Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

A Little Embarassing

I really feel like, between the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and rereading all my Susan Isaacs once a year, I've missed out on a lot of important things. See the following, for example.

And in case you don't scroll all the way down, commentary first.

1) I suspect that One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch was banned in communist Russia. A very different standard.

2) Speaking of standards, whatever nutjob banned Little House on the Prairie probably has hypersensitivity problems. How do you walk down the street if you're that easily offended?

3) I have already added a few of these to my list, and I'm proud to say that some were already on it.

4) At first I was embarassed by the number of titles that I not only haven't read, but haven't heard of. But now I'm a little skeptical about this list. I mean, I would expect that The Happy Hooker has been banned lots of times--possibly more often than James and the Giant Peach, because, while more libraries are trying to include the latter, astronomically more people would have complaints about the former.

And I think the advice to read more is not necessarily solid. Some of these are wonderful books, but there are plenty of good non-banned books out there.

So that's my two cents. I have to mark up the list, which may take a while.

Here's a list of the top 110 banned books. Bold the ones you've read. Italicize the ones you've read part of. Read more. Convince others to read some.

#1 The Bible
#2 Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#3 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
#4 The Koran
#5 Arabian Nights
#6 Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#7 Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
#8 Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
#9 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
#10 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
#11 The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
#12 Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
#13 Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
#14 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#15 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
#16 Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#17 Dracula by Bram Stoker
#18 Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
#19 Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
#20 Essays by Michel de Montaigne
#21 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#22 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
#23 Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
#24 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
#25 Ulysses by James Joyce
#26 Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
#27 Animal Farm by George Orwell
#28 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
#29 Candide by Voltaire
#30 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#31 Analects by Confucius
#32 Dubliners by James Joyce
#33 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#34 Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
#35 Red and the Black by Stendhal
#36 Das Kapital by Karl Marx
#37 Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire
#38 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#39 Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
#40 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#41 Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
#42 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
#43 Jungle by Upton Sinclair
#44 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
#45 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
#46 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#47 Diary by Samuel Pepys
#48 Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
#49 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
#50 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
#51 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
#52 Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
#53 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
#54 Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
#55 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
#56 Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
#57 Color Purple by Alice Walker
#58 Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
#59 Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
#60 Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
#61 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
#62 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#63 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
#64 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#65 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
#66 Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#67 Gargantua and Pantagruel by Francois Rabelais
#68 Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
#69 The Talmud
#70 Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#71 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#72 Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
#73 American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
#74 Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
#75 Separate Peace by John Knowles
#76 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
#77 Red Pony by John Steinbeck
#78 Popol Vuh
#79 Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
#80 Satyricon by Petronius
#81 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#82 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#83 Black Boy by Richard Wright
#84 Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
#85 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#86 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
#87 Metaphysics by Aristotle
#88 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#89 Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
#90 Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
#91 Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
#92 Sanctuary by William Faulkner
#93 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
#94 Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
#95 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
#96 Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#97 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
#98 Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
#99 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
#100 Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
#101 Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
#102 Emile Jean by Jacques Rousseau
#103 Nana by Emile Zola
#104 Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
#105 Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
#106 Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#107 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
#108 Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
#109 Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
#110 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Trade Off

So Melissa showers me with new things to read (The Innkeeper's Song, by Peter Beagle, which I was too young to appreciate last time). I need to move faster through what I'm reading now, though, to get to it.

I'll DEFINITELY need to undergo a Personal Library Renaissance this time. No more BPL books (except book club books and reserves that I've been waiting for, assuming they ever come in) until I've read a certain percentage of the books I own and have borrowed from others. Right now all my reading is borrowed--GG&S is from Elizabeth (because she beat me to it at the book fair), Alias Grace from Lynne (who hopefully is reading The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants and enjoying it) and The Ruby in the Smoke from Katie, who will have to read Philip Pullman's Golden Compass series soon.

I also need to read the Chronicles of Narnia. I've only ever read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but I've become fond of C.S. Lewis in my dotage, and the movie's coming out. Once again, my reading comes in waves--before it was books about finding God and parenting, and now it's YA fiction (mostly fantasy). I also really want to read When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro, which Becky was kind enough to say I could keep if I wanted. I'm too greedy, because I really really do want.

I'm looking forward to finishing GG&S and Alias Grace, because I'd like to be able to look at both of those rather vast books more objectively, and maybe write about them here. Instead of about trips to the library and, basically, biblioporn.