books


Yeah, I’ve been putting off admitting anything more about reading or seeing Twilight. I think it’s best to combine it all in one post and get it over with.

I agree with what the lead actor said in the interview that prompted this whole adventure for me. He says the books make you feel “uncomfortable” and “shouldn’t have been published” (!!!). HAH. But I seriously can’t discuss this anymore in public, I have to put it behind a cut.

(more…)

We’re fans of Top Chef and midway through the current season, regular judge Gail Simmons got married and went on her honeymoon, so there’s a new regular judge taking her place – an ascerbic Brit named Toby Young. It turns out I’ve read a book of his that had nothing to do with food criticism:

This season introduces new judge Toby Young, food critic and best-selling author of the book “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” which was the basis for an upcoming film.

[reference: http://tv.msn.com/tv/top-chef/?gt1=28103]

Well son of a gun. I’m gonna pull that book off my shelf next time I think of it and give it a leaf-through. I recall it being pretty funny.

As always, I remain firmly behind in my reading list. It’s a losing game. Still, I did read SOME books this year and these were my favorites. Note that these were not published in 2008, just stuff I read this year.

Fiction:

Non-fiction:

What do you recommend that you read this year?

Kate lent me this book and if I remember correctly, was kind of noncommittal about it. (Yes, Kate?)

It’s actually two stories in one volume, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow, translated from Japanese. Both deal with themes of loss and grief and home. And I don’t know. Despite some glowing reviews, I just wasn’t feeling it. Kitchen in particular seemed to be straining for too much cutesy and whimsey, and it just got on my nerves. I liked Moonlight Shadow better, maybe because it was shorter and less overtly determined to be offbeat. Eh, still not that great.

Bottom line: meh. I can’t really recommend it, but I’m not feeling like buying a billboard to warn you off it either.

Yesterday I confessed that I’ll be seeing Twilight soon. I feel the need to justify this. DON’T JUDGE ME.

Basically, somehow or other I wound up seeing this video interview with the lead actor. And I got a little obsessed with it. I’d never really heard much of Twilight before seeing this, I was dimly aware of the novel(s) but I didn’t even know it was being made into a movie. Apparently to huge amounts of hype? That I completely missed until now?

So the situation with the video is, it’s like the four most trainwrecky minutes ever. I keep forwarding it to people. He insults the books, the author, and the fans. And yet, despite all that, I can’t help feeling sorry for him because he is obviously in way over his head, I guess the fans of this series must be pretty over the top… The body language… And the poor interviewer keeping a straight face and trying to save the interview by steering it back into safer territory… I LOVE IT.

So whatever. Now I just have to see this movie, okay? My friend is making me read the book first, and I have to say it’s some of the worst “writing” I have ever encountered. I’m still in the middle of it but I seriously don’t think even a middle-school creative writing teacher could give it a passing grade.

I can’t wait!!!

I feel like I’ve liked almost everything I’ve read lately, which is a great streak to be on. I’d never heard of this author, but according to the bio in the front of the book, he published over 200 novels and at one point was the best-selling author in the world, so I guess I live under a rock made of illiteracy. On the other hand, he retired from writing in the 70’s, so maybe I can be forgiven. Also, he published in French.

Anyway, this was an engrossing psychological novel written from the point of view of the husband in a couple who drives from Long Island to Maine to pick up their kids from summer camp over Labor Day. He’s deeply disaffected and ill-at-ease with a lot of the aspects of his life. The decisions he makes trigger destructive events, even as he hopes they will be grand and meaningful, and mend an emptiness in his existence. This is an intense exploration of modern alienation before such a thing was hip. I’m somehow reminded of the short stories of Raymond Carver.

Red Lights provided me with an interesting contrast from The Awakening which was a female-POV book, which also featured a protagonist who was tragically alienated from contemporary societal expectations and conventions. The novels were written ~50 years apart, and the writing styles are extremely different. If I was more ambitious, I would spend some time writing a term paper delving more deeply into this pair of novels. But I am not!

I know the book was translated from French, so this isn’t the original text, but I did want to quote one paragraph that I adored. The couple have just exchanged some meaningless dialogue about the temperature in the car and whether to put on a coat.

Why did they feel an obscure need to exchange remarks of this sort? Was it to reassure themselves? If so, what were they afraid of?

Wow.

Bottom line: recommended

This poor book languished for years on my shelves. “Oh yeah,” I’d occasionally think, “that’s supposed to be good, an American classic, I should read that some day.” I finally took it off the shelf last month and read the back of the book, which contained this quote:

In short, Mrs. Pontellier was not a mother-woman. The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshipped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.

That is dynamite, knockout stuff that evidently freaked the crap out of her contemporary society. This book was written in 1899.

As you might gather from that passage, the heroine of The Awakening is an unconventional woman. While vacationing with her husband and 2 children on the Gulf Coast one summer, Edna Pontellier learns to swim, falls in love, and slowly realizes that the life she is living is not fulfilling. That realization propels her to make major changes, which have repercussions I won’t spoil.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel as if that passage (and this book) could still be written today and would seem just as relevant as it must have been in 1899 – maybe more so. It feels seditious. It feels dangerous. It feels real and revolutionary.

I don’t know a lot about literary movements so all I can say is that the writing seems old-fashioned but in no way inaccessible to a modern reader. Some of the writing, particularly the end, was breathtakingly poignant.

I feel self-conscious recommending it, as if my recommendation will be interpreted as some kind of anti-family manifesto. But I think my friends who bother to read my blog know I’m not anti-family. I’m just exceedingly sympathetic to the plight of anyone (particularly women) caught in the oppressive expectations of a domination-based hierarchical social system that’s slavishly devoted to narrow gender roles. F that.

Bottom line: very highly recommended.

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