Friday, November 19, 2004

I stayed home from work yesterday to work on my novel and during a break I finished V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (which some misguided cataloger decided to enter in our catalog as having been written by "Steve Moore"). Written in the early 1980s, it imagines a future England of the late 1990s that survived a nuclear holocaust during WWIII in the 1980s and became a fascist state. The main character, V, is a result of a medical experiment that occurred at a British concentration camp (all the usual suspects were carted off like the Nazis did in their fascist regime). V escaped and made it his? her? mission to not only get revenge on those who ran the camp, but also to bring about the fall of the government and wake the people up from their passive state. There are large and difficult concepts at work in this book - fascism, anarchy, privacy, hypocrisy, the role of government and the responsibilities of the public. Is V a terrorist or a hero? How much freedom do we have to give up to ensure our safety? And is safety worth the price of our civil liberties?

Alan Moore is acclaimed as a master of this medium and for good reason. He elevates the discourse and consistently transcends the genre. I've read that he is nearly singlehandedly responsible for turning graphic novels into a respected and valid art form and the more books I read of his, the more I believe that this is the truth.


Monday, November 15, 2004

One of the reasons why I'm behind on my novel is The Inner Circle by T. C. Boyle. This is a fictional account of Dr. Kinsey and his "inner circle" of researchers and their wives as they sought to complete his massive survey of sexual behavior in the 1940s and 50s. From what I've read of Boyle, a favorite theme of his is that of the eccentric, charismatic genius who has the unquestioning loyalty of a group of true believers. This is certainly the case with this book, as Kinsey seems to have an almost hypnotic power over the narrator and the others of the inner circle. The narrator struggles with what Kinsey teaches and how short he falls of what Kinsey views as the ideal state of human sexuality. Boyle sets up an interesting juxtaposition that serves as a critique of Kinsey's ideas about sex - the narrator and his wife are unable to separate emotion and love from sex and trying to follow Kinsey's philosophy nearly tears apart their marriage.

I thought the climax (no pun intended) was too long in coming (oh geez), and I'm not entirely sure if I'd say I liked the book. It was definitely interesting and the details of Kinsey's life were quite eye-opening, but my ideas of sex are too wrapped up in religion and emotion for me to view it with anything other than a skeptic's eye. I recognize the good that he brought about and the need for his research, and I don't buy the arguments from the more fanatical conservatives that all the evils of the modern world can be laid at his feet, but I think he went overboard in insisting that emotion can and should be removed from sex and that the two have nothing to do with each other. That I'm not so sure about.


Friday, November 05, 2004

Dear Michael Cunningham,

I'm sorry. I really have tried to enjoy your books. I managed to slog my way through A Home at the End of the World, but I have to admit I wasn't excited by it. I thought your characters were whiny and way too self-absorbed. I'm here to tell you I'm quitting halfway through Flesh and Blood because I'm not connecting with anything there and I have too many books waiting for me to spend any more time with one that doesn't move me. I know you won the Pulitzer Prize for The Hours, but I won't be reading it because I don't have a lot of hope that you've changed. And unless my tastes shift in the future, I'm afraid this is where we part ways for good. A lot of other people really seem to love your books, so I'm sure this is not about you as an author, but about me as a reader. I'm not going to bad-mouth you to random strangers in bookstores, but if asked my honest opinion of one of your books, I'm going to have to tell the truth: your novels leave me a little cold and disengaged. Michael Chabon has a new novel out next week that I am unbelievable excited about (Sherlock Holmes! Nazis!) and I think he's more what I'm looking for in a novelist. Good luck in your future literary endeavors and I'm sure I'll catch your movie adaptations on cable one of these days.

Your truly, Becky


Monday, November 01, 2004

My last book before starting my novel was Sammy's Hill by Kristin Gore. I was a little wary of this one because the heroine seemed almost too chick-lit-quirky and I thought for sure she'd start to annoy me pretty quickly. Surprisingly though, she didn't. The romantic plots were fairly predictable, but the setting (Washington D.C.) and Sammy's job (health care analyst to a senator) definitely added some depth and more than made up for that. Sammy herself, with perhaps one or two too many quirks, was endearing and idealistic, but not stupid or annoying. It was fun to try and figure out which politicians were inspired by real life, with the most obvious being the President. Here's the description from the book: "Even after seven years of watching him, President Pile never ceased to amaze me. He always sported a blank, deer-caught-in-the-headlights expression that inspired neither confidence nor all that much respect. He'd made a career out of failing upwards, but his disastrous reign as the leader of the free world had used up what had once appeared to be a bizarrely limitless amount of luck. I watched him stumble over a few more sentence fragments before jutting out his jaw and signing the bill with a flourish. At least that was some proof he was literate. I didn't mean to be so callous, but having a shitty president was something I took personally." Tell me that's not Bush. Hah. This was a quick, fun read and one of the better chick lit titles out there.


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