Tuesday, August 2, 2011

No. And no and no and never and no.

Naked Lunch has earned the dubious honor of becoming the first book I refused to finish because it was just too disgusting to continue. And if I had any idea what half of the slang words William Burroughs used actually meant, I would probably be even more icked out (incidentally, reading about Burroughs' accidental murder of his wife was more interesting than the book itself).

Gentle reader, if a man ripping out another's man's eye so that he can then have intimate relations with the eye SOCKET sounds a bit much for you, don't attempt this book. Seriously, that was my breaking point, and I don't even know what further nastiness might have followed.

He may look like a nice old man. Don't be fooled.

If anyone out there has any idea why this book was included amongst the greats of literature, please let me know. I am not that squeamish. I made it through A Clockwork Orange! But this was too much. This I cannot do.

Why does this book even exist?

Image found here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guess who's back...

Back again. Okay, enough quoting bad Eminem songs.

I didn't realize it had been almost two weeks since I've posted. In that span of time, I've tried, then tried again to muster some interest for The Wings of the Dove (sorry Henry James fans, just couldn't do it), and then I took a nice little break from the norms of the list and read Things Fall Apart. So far, this is the only African novel on the list, and I found it a refreshing change of pace.

I'm considering cheating and watching the movie version of The Wings of the Dove. Also wondering if I should have called this the Helena Bonham Carter Project (how is she in so many of these film adaptations????).

I enjoy reading novels that provide enough factual details that they inspire me to do a little outside research on my own. Reading The Other Boleyn Girl many years ago led me to devour book after book on Henry VIII and his various wives (and to hate Eric Bana forever for his TERRIBLE movie interpretation). While I didn't do quite as much digging into the Nigerian Ibo culture, I found the religious beliefs and cultural ideals revealed in the novel to be interesting (and mostly correct, as best as I can tell). Who knew there were cultures that considered twins an abomination and left them exposed to die in the forest? Not me! My husband, who is a twin, was not a fan!

There's also quite a bit of talk about yams. They eat A LOT of them in the book.

Things Fall Apart tells the story of a man named Okonkwo and how his life and village are changed by the arrival of white missionaries in Africa. And yes, true to Greatest 100 form, it ends sadly. You have been warned.

Stories about the clash of cultures tend to sadden me, as they almost inevitably involve misunderstanding or miscommunication between the two groups. In this particular case, I found it easy to empathize with both sides. I'd be horrified to see helpless babies left to fend for themselves in the forest, as the Christian missionaries were, but I would also not want to raise children that I thought were an abomination in the eyes of God, as the Ibo people thought about twins. Tough situation. As a Christian myself, I also find it embarassing to read about other Christians who found it acceptable to use violence or fear to coerce the natives into converting. Even though they were fictional in this case, I know that real examples of these types of individuals existed. Disappointing.
What was the last book you read about another culture? What did you learn from it?

 Movie image here. Yam image here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Pondering Light in August

I am pretty excited to tell you...I just finished another Faulkner book that I actually understood. I'm feeling quite accomplished! Perhaps Radcliffe kindly listed these novels in order of difficulty and it will be smooth sailing from here on out?


Now that I understand what's happening, I more readily see the beauty in Faulkner's page-long-sentences and unique style. I somewhat wish that I'd started with Light in August and worked my way up to The Sound and the Fury. I might have appreciated it more.

Light in August follows Lena Grove's quest to locate her unborn baby's father in Jefferson, Mississippi, and along the way we learn of the tragic life of Joe Christmas, a mixed race man who commits a murder in the town. Each of the main characters is in some way an outcast, whether that because of racial heritage, marital status (or lack thereof), social beliefs, or a checkered past.

outkast history: Dre and Big boi Speakerboxxx
Not because they sang chart topping hits.

In reading the story, I wondered if Faulkner chose to portray each of these individuals on the fringe of society because they were more interesting, or because society then was so judgemental that there were just more outcasts as a result. I would not expect an unwed single mother or an interracial couple today to be ostracized in the way that these people were, but perhaps I'm being naive.

What do you think? Have we become more accepting as a society? Is this good or bad or maybe a bit of both?

Images found here and here.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Funnies for the 4th

A friend posted this link on Facebook today (Warning: Includes not-safe-for work/grandmothers/small children-language). Hysterical. My favorite is the retitle of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Really...is anybody cooler than Atticus Finch?

Monday, June 27, 2011

All I Can Say Is...Read It!

I finished Bonfire of the Vanities yesterday. I don't even know if there should be much more to this post than, "Read it." I liked it that much.

Tom Wolfe is definitely not the best writer on this list (I thought he was never going to stop repeating the words "gloaming" and "snout"). But his characters and the storyline were so interesting and layered and deliciously complex that I could hardly put the book down (which is really saying something - if you'll recall, the only version I could find was a hefty large-print edition that probably weighed 10 lbs). Read it!

Free School Clipart
I looked like this. Except that I didn't wear a suit or glasses, and I'm not a man. Almost entirely unlike this, actually.

The novel follows the derailment of bond tradesman Sherman McCoy's charmed life after he is involved in a hit-and-run accident in the Bronx. A sleazy reporter's newspaper articles quickly magnify the case into a local sensation, charged with racial tensions and political intrigue. Many people behave badly, but Wolfe's genius is that most of the character's motivations are so complicated that it becomes increasingly difficult to say who the "good guys" are...if there are any at all. My description doesn't do it justice. You should really read it.

I have been told not to watch it though. Evidently not a good adaptation.

Disclaimer: The back of my book contained critics' remarks raving about the book's hilarity. The satire is amusing, but I didn't find it to be laugh-out-loud funny. In case it bothers you when book jackets don't necessarily match up to the contents (and sometimes it does me), you have been notified.

What's the last book you read that you would definitely recommend "Just read it!"?

Reading man photo found here. Bonfire movie photo found here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On fire for Bonfire

I am having so much fun reading Bonfire of the Vanities. Tom Wolfe's writing is fast-paced and often funny, and I haven't read a good crime drama in a while. And perhaps best of all, the story is set in the 80s, which means I get to picture fun visuals like these:

Green letters on a black screeen? I remember you.

Masters of the Universe
The protagonist calls himself a Master of the Universe. Thankfully he wears a suit and not tiny briefs.

Vintage 80's dresses
The description of the socialites' clothing is a-mazing. Only eclipsed by descriptions of their shoulder pads.
So can't wait to figure out what will become the "what were they thinking???" trends of today.

My vote is definitely cuffed sandals. What's yours?

Computer photo found here. He-man photo found here. Amazing 80s dresses found here.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Definitely Not Jumping on the Bandwagon

Do you ever want to like something just because people that you respect do? I had a weekend full of those moments. I rented Ratatouille, despite having seen it a few years ago and remembering it as lackluster. My friends and family like it. Roger Ebert gave it 4 stars! Maybe on that initial viewing several years ago I was tired/worried/not in the mood for animation? Nope. I still think it's the most boring of the Pixar films (I know, I know, this is almost as bad as admitting that I didn't like Inception).

To be fair, the rat that we just caught in our garage may be influencing me negatively.

After turning off Ratatouille right in the middle, I told myself that I'd plow through the remainder of Cat's Cradle. Several readers whose taste I respect have told me that they loved Vonnegut, so perhaps upon finishing the novel I, too, would find this love.


I can't put my finger on what it is specifically that I just can't connect with in Vonnegut's work, because I've certainly read more off-the-wall satire and more bizarre science fiction. Something about him is just not for me. And here I am applauding myself publicly for giving writers a second chance and finding other works that I liked. Maybe I jinxed myself?

Cat's Cradle is an apocalyptic tale that examines the role of technology, science, and religion in our lives. It definitely has funny moments, and it's a quick read. Other people like this book (actual people I know, not just random reviewers on amazon.com). The University of Chicago liked it so much they awarded Vonnegut his Master's Thesis for it. So maybe you will, too.

As for me, I'm moving on to Bonfire of the Vanities, and trying not to feel ridiculous that the only version I could track down has GIANT large type and weighs almost as much as I do.

What's something popular that doesn't do much for you - books, movies, etc.?

Cuter rat than the one in my garage image found here.