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.