Thursday, April 26, 2007

Animal Farm

written by George Orwell

Of course I've read "Animal Farm", in fact it was in college (yes I went to college). But the problem was, when Andy (yes, again with the husband) began telling me about the correlation between Animal Farm and the Soviet communist party, well, I thought secretly "what?!?" I didn't mention anything about it, and since he was reading it at the time I couldn't pick it up (sharing a book is annoying). So when I saw it on the bookshelf years later I silently picked it up and read through it in a couple of days (it's short people, only 144 pages). My Literature course in college apparently sucked, because reading "Animal Farm" again with gutenbergians at my disposal was an entirely different experience.

And by the way, also thanks to the Gute, I now read introductions, prefaces, and the like, from now on I'll have a clue, even if no one tells me a thing.

"Animal Farm's" historically driven concepts push the novel beyond a simple story and I can't stand the knowledge gained from a work like this. Not only is the writing smart and informed, but, the story is just plain great and I can't get enough.

I just want to say "thank you" to Gutenberg and all the people that go with her. It may take me more than four years, but I think it's better this way. I am learning, little by little, piece by piece, one book at a time and I love it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Million Little Pieces

written by James Frey (and the devil)

The Smoking Gun retitled this book to: A Million Little Lies. If you want to find out what they have to say about this "memoir" check out "The Man Who Conned Oprah". I'm not going to discuss this controversial subject. I'm going to discuss what I think is a greater tragedy. The fact that this man can not write a decent sentence, tell a compelling story, or portray emotion. Just to prove my point, I am going to set the book on my lap, open to a random page and blindly land my finger on a section (you know like you did with the Bible when you needed God to speak to you?) and post it verbatim. This is going to be fun.

I get a tray and I get in line. I get a plate of chipped beef, a plate of chicken strips and rice, a plate of turkey taquitos. I carry the tray to the Dining Room. My friends are at a table in one of the far corners. I walk toward them.
I sit down so I can see Lilly and Lilly can see me. Leonard and Miles and Ed and Ted and Matty are talking about the imminent Heavyweight Boxing Match. They ask me what's new, I tell them about my Sentence. They are all surprised. They figured whatever time I was looking at was likely to be short and easy. Leonard asks what I did and I tell him...We eat. I glance at Lilly. We talk. Prison is the main topic of conversation.

Basically. This guy went through the "over 400 pages of records" from 6 weeks in re-hab and details for us what he ate at every meal...because that was probably a huge part of his time there and one of the most important parts of his recovery (?) EVERY meal. Also, the capitalization is not a mistake by me, yes, he really capitalized "Sentence" cause it's dramatic or something, and Leonard and Miles and Ed and Ted and Matty. This may not seem so bad to you (Jen knows what I'm talkin about though, she read a whole page of it) but trust me, it's bad.

I was also going to quote a conversation that he wrote, they really suck, but it was too annoying and I got fed up with re-reading any part of this book and I just returned it to the Library (of course I didn't buy the book!). I'm going to tell you about my experience at the Library when I went a looking for this...(well, I guess I'll call it a book) because this book didn't make me think about life or love or writing or anything really personal, except for the part when I got really pissed that this book was actually published and James Frey is super rich and will never have to work again for the rest of his life...

Anyways. upstairs on the 3rd floor of the Library, fiction, I search under "F" for Frays, or is it Fry or Fray or Fri??? Can't find it anywhere...hmm. I head over to the computer and search under title, I know that perfectly (a Million Little Lies, right?) I find it. There's one copy left and I head back to the "F's" as I have learned that it's spelled Frey. Alas, even though the computer says there's a copy available, I still can't find it. I head back over to the computer and look it up again. To my shock and dismay I had forgotten the biggest and best controversy to hit Oprah since the Beef thing...James Frey wrote a "MEMOIR" which means...and man am I dense...his book will be in the NON-fiction section of the Library. Sure enough, one floor down, amongst the encyclopedias and how-to books I find the ever so familiar book cover with the hand covered in sprinkles. And just cause I know Oprah would appreciate it (not cause I love her, but because I'm nice and I like helping people) - I stealthily remove the "Oprah's Bookclub sticker" from the cover.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Arlington Park

written by Rachel Cusk

"Set over the course of a single rainy day, the novel moves from one household to another, and through the passing hors conducts a deep examination of its characters' lives."

Previously, if I'd read this on the inside jacket of a book I would've put it back on the shelf and thought that not much could happen and why bother. Thanks to taking a chance on, and loving "One day in the Life.." and the fact that I wanted to read a new release next, "Arlington Park" fit the bill.

Set in London and following the intertwined lives of women living on Arlington Park seems like a good backdrop for a novel and at times it is. Many of the chapters are insightful, encouraging - in a backwards way (let's just say it made me appreciate the love of my good man and semi-quiet life we lead), and all are more than words on a page.

But, and here comes a little critique, sometimes I couldn't handle the fascinating, page after page of descriptions of rain...seriously. It's true. rain. I mean, I like rain, love it sometimes but 248 pages of one day, while it's raining? It was a little much.

I find myself searching for a focus in my novel. I wonder if reading the latest novel is helpful anymore. I need these influences in some way, because,
- if you already know what I'm writing you can skip this part -

The main character in my novel is a twenty-something woman, working in the highly popular culture of fashion and glamor. Her life is seemingly the epitome of so many a young girls list of life goals. She is married to a high-power man, with luxury and all the good. She is unsatisfied though, and finds a better man to fulfill her where her husband has not.

...because, for my main character to come to a moral climax she has to be someone that would "fit" in the world that these "chick-lit" novels portray. When I find my novel taking a more real life turn, I pick up another chick-lit book and re-focus my character back into the world she needs to live in.

So...I need these books. But I am writing (my book) because I despise these books. The characters never suffer consequences for their evil deeds. That is what I am writing against. And that is what I am hoping to expose with my own book and perhaps change the way we view what chick lit is supposed to be. To stay focused on my end result (and my ending that includes consequences), I can not read these chick lit books, they are a distraction and they, basically, make my writing suck. But to write a compelling "beginning" to my story, I MUST read and read with a mind to devour and soak in their meaning and feeling and sense of being that a chick lit offers.

I am stuck. My mind seems to full of everything. So, I'm reading C.S.Lewis' "The Discarded Image"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Once again, I blame my husband for the inspiration to read this novel. When he said to me, "it all takes place over one day," at first, I wanted to cry. How could this be interesting? "I woke up, brushed my teeth, took a shower, got dressed, went downstairs, made oatmeal, ate it, and walked to the office to pay rent." Riveting. Then he mentioned the part about it being set in a Stalinist work camp. And let's face it, reading the entirety of his Gutenberg bookshelf is the absolute closest I am going to get to my own education.
So, I read.

The book is short, only 139 pages, and that is reason number one why you can't excuse not reading "One Day in the Life..."

The eloquence behind the writing is a mesmerizing contrast to the horrific subject matter of this novel. The attitude of the men, their determination and dedication to survival and life provided me with a map of sorts to guide my happiness in life. We're taught not to compare ourselves with others. We are all unique and therefore our lives should be too. But, I never succeed in this.
Strangely, I'm dealing with the same topic as I was in the aftermath of "Moral Disorder" live life, despite happiness or tragedy and so on, life is to live. This seems to be my new creed, but I will always struggle with the being thankful part.

I grew up loving a good mystery, but reason two to read "One Day in the Life", is the heart-pounding stress I felt at each page turn - it is so much better than a Nancy Drew who-dun-it.

There's such a good feeling I have when at the end of a novel I am relieved to have devoured the story in its entirety and reached the conclusion, but depressed because it's over and there is nothing left (that's perhaps why I'm such a sucker for an author's second or third work). This novel has given me that. I have learned that a good book is supposed to be read more than once and this is a good book. And so, I'll add it to the shelf of works to read over and over again. And I'll ponder life through a little clearer lens and with a little more clarity. That's what a good book does to me, it makes me think again and again.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Moral Disorder

written by Margaret Atwood

If you want to tell and story about a family, and you want to connect other characters' stories throughout, and you want a book of compelling-on-their-own short stories - then give up, Margaret Atwood already did it.

I am intrigued by mental illness. It is something I am researching for my own endeavor in the world of a writer. One of the short stories in this novel revolves around a sister's mental illness and the destruction that shoddy medical opinions and mis-perscribed medication take on her. I have discovered that in life, misdiagnoses happens, doctors can be misinformed, or not informed at all on a subject, disease, condition or there is the always depressing money factor. Either the doctor is in a low-income clinic or the doctor is in a high-class practice being somewhat forced to see low-income patients. Either way, the care this patient receives may be less than helpful.

All of that aside. Any form of mental illness is devastating and thus intriguing - at least to me. Why are any of us given a clear mind, a strong understanding of life and its challenges, or an ability to change and adapt to pain, suffering, love, happiness? By God's grace. By God's love.
But why are we also given the challenges, the pain, the suffering, the love, the happiness? By God's grace. By God's love. These are my only answers and my only explanation. I don't quite understand each in their fullness, but I don't mind. To know God has a say in my life, a desire for me and a plan has peace attached, but it also brings me the fear of the unknown trials and pain. That is the pessimist in me - quite the opposite to my last blog, eh? I have a hard time viewing life (as a whole) feeling joyful for the good God has in His plan and more dread in the fear of the challenges and devastation.

I would appreciate insight and opinions.

I've been learning recently about God's love and the fact that His love for me does not always translate into warm fuzzies. At times, His love includes pain and at it's worst, tradegy. To attempt to remain thankful. God is teaching me this lesson, over and over again. I am trying to be thankful living in His will, whatever tragedy befalls and I hope you attempt the same. I am a blessed woman. Thank God for His Love.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

written by Jonathan Safran Foer

Before requesting this book at the library, I checked out "Everything is Illuminated" and found the writing exceptional, the storytelling insightful and the subject matter engaging. The problem lay in the fact that I had seen the movie, starring Elijah Woods, and I really liked it. I liked it so much that I knew I would love the book. The problem was...I had seen the movie, and it was done well, to well.
"All the ladies want to be carnal with me cause I am such a primo dancer," was to fresh in my mind, I couldn't get past the movie to read the book. It was heartbreaking.

My desire to read a work by Foer led me to his next novel and I was thoroughly pleased. At first, the layout and flow of the chapters are a bit jolting. There is a tendency to let your mind wander rather than expend the effort it takes to engage in the quirks of this style. But, wait a moment and allow the jostling to be a soothing ride. This book did not disappoint.

There is a side story in is this novel, involving a grandmother. She is writing a diary as such to her grandson, explaining to him how her marriage of rules had made her life so confined that it was a waste. I pondered over this idea for some time, realizing how I may have made my own marriage a "marriage of rules". There are rules about where things belong, how to wash them, who is in charge of one thing or another and on and on. I was, well, depressed. In the book, the husband has left. He has walked away, he does not want to be confined by all the rules.

This Marriage of Rules is killing them.

I discovered something about my marriage, thank you Mr. Foer. My marriage has guidelines, my marriage has boundaries, my marriage has certain tastes and desires, my marriage has preferences. But to call it a Marriage of Rules would be doing it such a disservice. Our marriage is a marriage of life, and one worth treasuring, one worth fighting for. And sometimes fighting for this marriage means compromising about how something is done, or where it belongs. There is no right way or wrong way to live life (i'm not talking spirituality or morals, i'm talking folding laundry and putting the dishes away) so how can we follow any list of rules? We can't. We can respect one another, be a helper to one another, and take the burden of life's chores from one another.

So, if there is a marriage where one person is making the rules and the other person is being forced to live by them; that is a Marriage of Rules. But in a partnership, defining these things as rules, is in my opinion, a pessimistic approach to marriage. I think ours is simply, marriage. Rules may exists in some form or another, but they do not define our marriage. I now understand that Foer's example is not a mirror of my marriage and I don't need to fear a similar end result. There will be other things to fear, but also, just so you know at least I don't have to fear death, I'm pretty sure Andy promised he'd never die.

Oh, and read the book I think you'll end up liking it like I did.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Anna Karenina

written by Leo Tolstoy

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Not only do I have a great admiration for Mr. Tolstoy, but I now have a great admiration for his characters. Through life, tragedy befalls all of us. But never has it been told with such elegance. I adore this book. It will be one of those books that I will read over and over again. I will never outgrow it, I will never be bored of it. It is a beautiful piece of literature and I am so happy my husband convinced me it was worth reading.

Anna Karenina taught me what an accomplished storyteller does. I am inspired and disheartened all at once. This is what writing is meant to be.

i read a book or two.

this being the first of a new series of blogs i wanted to give a bit of an insight into my history with books.

i read, a lot of books. i always have. i hope i always will.
i used to only read mysteries. books with intrigue - mostly Nancy Drew...i've read them all.
Now i find myself reading all type, historical, fiction, "non-fiction" newly published, translated, short story and graphic novel and i wonder if i'll ever remember them all.

my first series of blogs are not so much book reviews, but more a collection of books i read and what it is they make me think...