Friday, December 29, 2006

Claire, you were absolutely right about Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and I wish you would have marched me into a bookstore months ago and made me buy it. I'm going to have to stop and get my own copy on the way home from work today because there are a bunch of holds on this one so I can't keep it to read again and again. Oh my gosh, how much did I love this book? The way she viewed her life and her father through Proust and Joyce and Fitzgerald was beautiful and, in fact, she might just have convinced me to read Ulysses next year.

This part, referencing Proust, I found very interesting: "After Dad died, an updated translation of Proust came out. Remembrance Of Things Past was re-titled In Search Of Lost Time. The new title is a more literal translation of A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu, but it still doesn't quite capture the full resonance of perdu. This means not just lost but ruined, undone, wasted, wrecked, and spoiled. What's lost in translation is the complexity of loss itself." This sheds new light on In Search Of Lost Time. My brain is already spinning, wondering if Proust means to say that his characters ultimately find they have wasted time pursuing the objects of their desire. Or is it something further on that he thinks is spoiled or ruined? Or if by examining the past, is it possible to regain that time? Or perhaps we are to reclaim it so it is no longer "lost" but instead vital to who we have become? Or are we all wasting our lives? What then do we do in order to make the most of it? What does Proust think we should do in order not to waste time? In Fun Home this section comes when Alison is ruminating on the cyclical nature of life and the parallels between her father and herself, seemingly saying that they both had wasted so much time denying their true natures. So is that what we must do in order to not feel our time is lost? Is it really as simple as "to thine own self be true"?


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Last night I read Wuthering High by Cara Lockwood, which follows 15 year old Miranda, sent away to a strict boarding school after crashing her father's car and maxing out his credit card. She soon discovers things are more than a little weird there. She meets a guy who says his name is Heathcliff and who calls her Cathy, her roommate insists that Dracula is roaming the campus, and her resident advisor, Ms. W, leaves wet footprints wherever she goes. Miranda and her friends start following clues she believes were left by a previous student, believed to be murdured during an escape attempt, to find out what's really going on. It's reminiscent of Jasper Fforde, but not nearly as smart or fun as his books. It was mildly entertaining, but nothing special and I doubt I'll bother to look for any sequels.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Vacation roundup.

First up was Hypocrite In A Pouffy White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman, which has been sitting unread on my shelf for ages. I was very pleased to find I hadn't wasted my money by buying it. It is most definitely not, as Daisy supposed, a chick lit title, but rather an extremely funny memoir of growing up in New York City as the staunch feminist daughter of hippies. I'd quote some favorite passages, but my sister asked to read it so I don't have it with me.

Then I read Give Us A Kiss by Daniel Woodrell on Christmas Eve. It's not that easy to concentrate on a book about Southerners growing pot when the stereo is blaring one Christmas song after another, but I managed. I could see where it was going, but I enjoyed the journey there despite that. As with his others, Woodrell's prose sings, drawing beauty out of the harshest lives and reiterating his recurring theme of poverty and want in the rural Ozark communities. "These wild kids are reared on baloney and navy beans, corn mush and Kool-Aid, and quick, terrible rough stuff. Their lips are circled by orange or red or green juice stains and their knees and elbows generally have scabs on them from two or three scraps at recess. All they ever know is that they want, and someday they'll learn you got, and after that the rest is sirens and statistics and nods from the wall of dead."

Christmas morning was spent with Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book Of Lists. I gave a copy to my brother and he gave one to me and we took turns reading each other and the family our favorites. A good time was had by all. And we even got my mom to laugh, which is not an easy feat.

Christmas afternoon was spent with Disordered Minds by Minette Walters, another book I've had sitting on the shelf for years. Like The Shape Of Snakes, this one includes emails, transcripts of interviews, letters, etc. to fill in the story of a thirty year old murder and the possible wrongful conviction of a young man who committed suicide after being put in prison. This isn't her best book - the events of both the murder and a rape committed shortly before it are gone over and talked about so many times and with so many variations posed that it got a little tedious. I still enjoyed the format and the process of discovering what possibly happened and wasn't bothered at all by the lack of a firm ending because it fit the book completely.


Monday, December 18, 2006

I'm behind again. Last week I read Wintersmith by Terry Prachett, his third YA book featuring Tiffany Aching and the hilarious Feegles. Tiffany is training to be a witch, but during a dance to welcome winter, she steps in and draws the attention of the Wintersmith with sometimes funny, but mostly disasterous results. As much as I love Death, I think Prachett's witch books are my favorites.

I also read The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson last week. I'm not quite sure how to classify it - he seems to be mentioned among horror writers, but I wouldn't put him there. Of course, I don't read much horror, so what do I know? I do know this was an incredibly creepy book. Rudd, a Mormon teenager living in Provo, while doing a school research project, discovers a murder committed by a grandson of Brigham Young that occurred in the early 1900's and becomes obsessed with it. He draws his newly discovered possible half brother in to it too and rapidly begins to lose control of whatever mental health he had to begin with. It wasn't hard to figure out at all (Daisy - you especially will spot what's happening as soon as I did), but it was still uncomfortably fascinating and well-written. I honestly don't know if this book would be more horrifying to members or non-members. Personally, being so familiar with the milieu and the types of characters made it worse for me. It became more real, I suppose.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Time for a catch up post before I get too behind. Last week I read So Hard To Say by Alex Sanchez which was cute and believable and felt very grounded in the Latin culture. It has alternating narrators - Xio, an eighth grade girl who is infatuated with the new boy in school, and the object of her affection, Frederick, who isn't quite sure what he wants. I'm sure you see where this is going.

Then on Saturday I read three Nancy Werlin YA mysteries: Locked Inside, The Killer's Cousin, and Black Mirror. Of the three The Killer's Cousin was the strongest. It's about a high school senior recently acquitted of the murder of his girlfriend, trying to finish school in a new town with his aunt and uncle and their seriously creepy preteen daughter. None of the three would land on my best books of the year list, but they were fairly enjoyable time wasters. I had a fourth one checked out, but by the time I got to it I was burnt out on her and I ditched it pretty quickly.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I finished The Bullet Trick by Louise Welsh at lunch today. It's her second full length novel and was just as good as the first. This one follows a magician named William Wilson back home in Glasgow to apparently drink himself to death, interspersed with chapters on his recent time spent in Berlin and the horrible thing that happened there that sent him staggering back to Scotland. The atmosphere of the Berlin sections is foreboding because the reader not only knows they are building up to a tragic event, one that puts William in a sharp downward spiral, but also gradually comes to believe this happens during the course of a magic act, thus ratcheting up the tension whenever William steps on stage. Back in Glasgow, William faces a threat from a different corner, one that originally made Berlin an appealing escape, but finds he can't outrun either situation. It's a fantastic modern noir novel and Welsh has jumped up the ranks to join those authors whose books I eagerly anticipate.


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