Monday, June 30, 2008

I've been on vacation lately. Literally for about a week, and metaphorically with all the gorgeous weather we've been having lately. My head is in the clouds and my feet are propped up on the deck furniture. So I've been lax in posting. But I certainly haven't been lax in reading. These are the heady days of devouring whole books in a weekend, luxuriating in the fifty one books waiting quietly in line in my bedroom cabinet. Who's next? Who's vying for the next slot? Who suits my mood, who can I learn something from? Who will make me stretch to understand them? Who will make me laugh? I will post on the books I've read in the last couple of weeks but I don't know when and I'm putting very little pressure on myself to post.
Besides, I'm busy reading.

coming posts on:

Immortal by Traci Slatton
Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund
A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon
On Writing by Stephen King

Monday, June 09, 2008

Okay, I settled on Ahab's Wife for my next read. Not on my previous list but I started it last night and its beautiful so far. I'm excited for this one. I'll have to pace myself so I still have some of it to read on the beach or at least on the plane!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The options for the next summer read:

Paris to the Moon- a book of travel essays written by Adam Gopnick
Lost- another Gregory Maguire book
Foolscap - another madcap Southern adventure comedy by Michael Malone
The Emperor's Children- the life and times of 30-somethings in NY

I'm leaning toward The Emperor's Children - I love to read about whiny entitled rich people and their "difficult" lives, especially a book with so many damn accolades splayed on the cover and back, makes me just ache to dislike it, just to be different. Prove me wrong, Claire Messud.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulker

What a fascinating, masterful, unusual and utterly depressing book. I most certainly didn't like this book, but I felt like I really got something out of it. I found some of the characters hateful, ignorant and frankly repugnant but the stream of consciousness style, the fifteen different first person narrators, and the sympathetic and thoughtful characters like Cash, Darl and Vernon Tull made this book truly worth the struggle to get through it. Once I finished it, about thirty minutes ago, I spent the last thirty minutes researching the book, motifs, themes, symbols, all those good English lit class words that I've missed since college. This book was a challenge but it also reminded me how much I used to enjoy immersing myself in a complex fictional world, trying to parse out what feelings and thoughts the author was attempting to illict from the reader, and drawing my own conclusions. I think I'll read more Faulkner soon, but I'm going to need a little break first.

The poverty, lack of education, and sheer selfishness of some of the resident's in Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County really made me struggle to figure out what the aristocratic Faulkner was trying to say about his rural, poor, fellow Southerners. Is he mocking them? Is he delving into the depths of their thoughts using visual and sensory techniques since their lack of education generally prevents his characters from using language to skillfully represent their own thoughts? Does he use the better educated characters, like Addie, to show some of his own lack of belief in the power of words to describe elements like love and family? I'm fascinated by Faulkner's style and Southern setting but it isn't the type of book that speaks to me or that I could say that I love. I love the challenge and I feel satisfied that I finished the book. But most high school and college students can say the same thing. I think my favorite part of the book was Addie's chapter in the middle where she shines such a bright life on her own life. Since she's dead for most of the book, her chapter in the middle was so enlightening, cynical, lonely, sad and heavily wrapped up in Christian sin and punishment, but it really allowed me to understand her bleak hatred of being trapped into her roles as a wife and mother. I finally felt like I understood the book, and frankly the point of the book. The other part that I really liked, mostly because the absurdity made me laugh out, was when Addie's widow, Anse, buries Addie on a Saturday, steals money from his daughter, and on Sunday buys some new false teeth and a new wife! Ridiculous.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Coming next, a book I can't believe I haven't read, and to be honest an author who I've only read short stories from, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. A little heavy for summer but hell, if Oprah and her minions can read I certainly can.
Its not that I didn't like The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta but it wasn't nearly as good as Election or Little Children. Basically the story of suburban northeast town struggling with the typcial evangelical versus secular battle that seems to have swept through American schools. Ruth is a sex education teacher, divorced single mom, forced to teach an abstinence only health course after a casual comment to her class brings down the wrath of the congregation of the Tabernacle, the local evangelical church. The other side of the book follows born again former rock musician/addict turned kids soccer coach Tim. The two main characters Ruth and Tim find themselves embroiled in conflict over the appropriateness of prayer at a town sponsored soccer match. The characters are often funny and open, fairly well developed and Perrotta doesn't give any pat answers to try and solve the religious struggles of modern American society, I appreciated all these things about the book but it just felt a bit cliched and forced in some places. I liked it, enjoyed reading it and would recommend it but something was missing. Some of the religious aspects of the book seemed very judgmental, with school scenes that were hollow and rather inaccurate. It just felt rather shallow, with Tim the most complex of the characters, likeable, conflicted and earnest. On the whole it lacked the insights of Little Children or the dark humor of Election. Read those two first and then maybe pick up The Abstinence Teacher.